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An Invitation to White, Middle-Strata 
Prestyterian Clergywomen to Live Passionately 



A Thesis Submitted 

to the Faculty of the 

Episcopal Divinity School 

in Partial Fulfillment 

for the Degree 

Doctor of Ministry 

(Feminist Liberation Theology and Ministry) 

May 15, 1990 


- f r^uju /> < ta^uc^ iteader 

Remember not the -former things, 
nor consider the things o-f old. 
Behold, I am doing a new thing; 
now it springs -forth, do you not 
perceive it? 

Isaiah 43:16-19 

Table of Contents 

Preface: "Feminist Liberation Theology: Called to Justice-Making Lives" 

Introduction 1 

Background 1 

My Particularity and My Communities of Accountability 4 

The Goals of the Thesis 6 

The Limitations of the Thesis 6 

Methodology 7 

The Flow of the Thesis 9 

Dedication 11 

Endnotes 13 

Chapter I Church Employed Women: Early Experiences of Feminist Liberation 14 

Early History 15 

Life with Church Employed Women 1972-1974 18 

Relationships with Other Women's Constituencies 19 

Specific Endeavors of CEW 20 

Challenging the Vocation Agency 21 

Work on Equal Employment Opportunity Program 22 

Clergywomen-" s Therapeutic Seminar 23 

Surveys of Our Constituencies 26 

Hiring the Coordinator of Employment Opportunities 27 

The Layoffs on the National Staff 29 

Structural Relationships with the Church 31 

Financial Struggles 34 

Power Dynamics within CEW 36 

(Analysis — See Appendix I.) 

Endnotes 38 

Chapter II The Relationship Between Liberal Feminism and Feminist 

Liberation 42 

A Schema of Comparison 42 

Moving Toward Feminist Liberation 45 

Factors Blocking the Movement 46 

Factors Facilitating the Movement 48 

Endnotes 51 

Chapter III The Journey Toward Feminist Liberation: The Lives and 

Work of Three Feminist Liberation Theologians 53 

Introduction 53 
The Elements of Feminist Liberation as Reflected by Three 

Feminist Liberation Theologians 55 

Community 55 

Revolutionary Change 61 

Embodiment 66 

Particularity 70 

Global Awareness 74 

Interdependence 76 

Marginal it y 82 

Transformation 86 

The Process of Beginning the Journey Toward Feminist Liberation 90 

Endnotes ? 


Chapter IV The Lived Experience of White, Middle-Strata Feminist 

Presbyterian Clergywomen 100 

Introduction 100 
Issues Reflected in the Corporate and Individual Work of the 

Clergywomen 104 

Particularity and Privilege 105 

Civil Disobedience 107 

Sexual /Erotic /Sensual 109 

Political Sense and Involvement 110 

Personal and Communal Issues 114 

Ethical Norms 116 

Paradigm Shifts 117 

Global Sense 121 

Making the Connections 123 

Sense of Vocation 124 

Liberal Feminism 126 

Liberation Theology 128 

Envisioning the Future 129 

Conclusion 130 

Chapter V Resistances to Feminist Liberation 133 

Fear 133 

Liberal Ideology 135 

Sexism 138 

Social Privilege 141 

Additional Factors of Resistance 146 

Lack of Information 146 

Despair 146 

Isolation 147 

Endnotes 150 

Chapter VI The Vision for and the Implications of Feminist Liberation 

in the Lives and Ministries of White,, Middle-Strata Presbyterian 

Clergywomen 152 

Saying "No" to Our Old Relationship with the Presbyterian Church 152 

Fear of Reprisals and Losses 152 

Possibility of Leaving the Church 154 

Questioning the Viability of the Church 156 

Saying "Yes" to Feminist Liberation 158 

The Healing of Our Beings 158 

Transforming Our Theology and Ethics 161 

Theology and Ethics Must be Justice-Centered 161 

Theology and Ethics Must Generate Moral Agency 162 

Theology and Ethics Must Encourage Risk-Taking 163 

Theology and Ethics Must Help Strengthen Communal 

Right -Relation 
Theology and Ethics Must Reflect and Celebrate Our 

Theology and Ethics Must Be Contextual 
Theology and Ethics Must Be Connectional 
Theology and Ethics Must Be Visionary 



Chapter VII 

Strategies for Moving Toward Feminist Liberation in the 
Presbyterian Church 


C lergy women •" s History Project 
Conferences on Privilege 

Racial Privilege 

Age and Able-Bodied Privilege 

Heterosexual Privilege 

Class Privilege 

Clergy Privilege 
Travel Seminars 
Seminary Quarter for Women 
Lesbian Clergy Political Caucus 
Intensive One-Month Study Leave Program 
Presbytery and Synod Clusters 
Conclusion: A Call to Revolution 


Appendices (Each is separately numbered. 

Appendix A: 
Appendix B: 
Appendix. C: 
Appendix D: 

Appendix E: 

Appendix F: 

Appendix G: 

Appendix H: 

Appendix I 
Appendix J 
Appendix K 
Appendix L 
Appendix M 

Memories of Annette Wall on Pre-CEW Days in Philadelphia 

CEW Prospectus and Purpose October, 1972 

Descriptive Brochure of CEW May, 1974 

CEW Recommendations to the Committee on the Office of Equal 
Employment Opportunity April, 1973 

Statistics of Responses to a Survey of Church Secretaries 
Fall, 1972 

A Creative New Way to Do Mission — Proposal for a Nine- 
Month Employment Schedule Fall, 1974 

The CEW Response to the G.A. Agency Staff Terminations 
October, 1974 

Church Employed Women's Statement and Proposal Prepared for 
the General Assembly Mission Council July, 1973, and 
Related Correspondence 

An Analysis of the Early Years of CEW 

The Design of the Gathering of Clergywomen April, 1989 

Elements Essential for Transformation 


The Church and Homosexuality May, 1978 


Feminist Liberation Theology: 

Called to Justice-Making Lives 

If Justice were used as the -foundation o-f our theology, what -form would 

our theology take? With Justice as the norm, Feminist Liberation Theology 

calls us to: 


adult ism 


Christo-facism and any other "ism" that 
renders a person less than -fully human. 

The web formed by all o-f these oppressions momentarily strengthens 
them but also entangles them, producing a vulnerability in the -face o-f 






communal endeavors to undo the 
sticky mess. 

With Justice as the norm, Feminist Liberation Theology calls us to: 

our race or 

our class or 
our gender or 

our "whole" body, mind, -Or psyche or 
our nationality or 
our education or 

our sexual preference or 
our age or 

our religious beliefs or 
our work or 

our politics or 

any other aspect of our social 
location by which we are blinded to the oppression of others that is required 
by and enables our own privilege. 

With Justice as the norm, Feminist Liberation Theology calls us to: 


900,000 persons died in Leningrad during the siege of that city -from 
1941-1944, most dying of starvation. 

Kitty Genevese was stabbed countless times and finally died in a New 
York City street while many persons watched from their windows and refused to 
do anythina out of lack of concern or an unwillinqness to get involved. 

Millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other so called misfits 
were reduced from human beings to no beings and could, therefore, be 
■istreated in any Banner which suited their oppressors and executioners, 
whether by slave labor, experimental surgery, forced guarding and torturing of 
their own people, or the crematoria. 

Shannon died at 3 1/2 years because the law said that his violent 
father should h&ve ample opportunity to prove that he was a good father. 

Tens of thousands of persons disappeared from the streets of 
Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Brazil, Guatemala and of many other Latin 
American countries and were subsequently jailed, tortured and killed, all 
because they dared to believe that the poor and oppressed had dignity and 
should be afforded rights and respect. 

Joan Clark lost her reputation and the job which she had held for 
nine years in the Women's Unit of the United Methodist Church because she 
dared to come out as a lesbian. 


South African Blacks, Coloreds, and other non-whites risk and give 
their lives in the struggle against the most structured system of enforced 
racism in the world, namely. Apartheid. 

Bob must leave his family because he has lost his job, and his wife 
and four children cannot get welfare help unless he is no longer a part of the 


Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, Martin Luther King, James Cheney, Andrew 
Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Malcolm X, James Reeb, Emmett Till, Jonathan 
Daniels, and many others gave their lives or risked their lives to bring Civil 
flights to the Blacks in this country. 

Jesus of Nazareth was tortured and executed ©y the state for being a 
subversive rabblerowser because he advocated for the poor and oppressed, 
questioned authority, both religious and secular, and saw the need for 
societal transformation. 


Countless women and children around the world are raped or sexually 
abused each moment of each day either in the street or inside their homes. No 
place is safe for them. Fourteen Canadian women were shot in a classroom 
merely because they were perceived by their murderer to be feminists. 

John was bashed to death while the young men who murdered him 
chanted and danced in glee — all because John was gay. 


Millions of women, who were called witches because they taught the 
Bible, healed people, asked difficult questions, and saw visions were burned 
at the stake, exiled From their communities, hanqed, drowned, cooked in oil. 

Margaret is beaten and starved by her daughter and son-in-law; her 
only crime is that she is 80 years old and cannot take care of herself any 


Dozens of young Korean women lose their eyesight each year from 
working on computer chip boards on the global assembly line. As a result, 
they are considered outcasts in their society. 

Countless others are oppressed in sundry ways each day whoa we do 
forget, for we do not know of their suffering, either because they are hidden 
by their isolation or because they are part of such a large group of 
sufferers. Still we are called to remember that they are here in our midst. 

With Justice as the norm, Feminist Liberation Theology calls us to: 


...ignorance or naivete 

...or a set of personal priorities that does not leave much room for 
thought or action about such weighty matters 

...or just plain indifference 

...or a focus on individual salvation 

...or a lack of imagination as to what can be done to bring about 

...or a fear of what eight happen to us as a result of our caring deeply 
and acting out of that concern. 

We are called out beyond that paralysis, however comfortable that slavery may 
have become for us, for some little part of us continues to remind us that 
until each person is treated justly, none of us is truly liberated. 

With Justice as the norm, Feminist Liberation Theology calls us to: 


by committing ourselves to our own conversion of heart and our own 
spiritual development whatever form that »ay take. 

by harkening to the testimony of the saints who have preceded us in 
this journey of faith. Their love, justice and hope live on in us. 

by joining in corporate/communal action where those who are committed 
to justice breathe as one in a conspiracy of transformation, which may, in the 
particular situation, take the form of simple reform or profound revolution. 

by taking our lead from those on the underside of every domination 
and oppression so that our mutuality can be real. We learn from and are 
changed by their experiences of power lessness and powerfulness. 

by continually being aware of and improving our analysis of the 
systemic nature of all oppressions which thwart, cripple and/or kill most of 

us in this world and by being committed to the institutional change necessary 
■for our transformation and resurrection. 

by taking the risks involved in working and living -for justice, 
because as a result of uncovering our own invisibility or our identification 
with other oppressed folks, we will be treated as all uppity people have been 
treated throughout history. 

by creating ways to work with other justice-committed people in 
alliances and coalitions so that the web of oppression can be more quickly 
broken by means of our collaboration. 

by empowering each other to be effective in "la lucha," the struggle 
that is the living out of our lives in justice. 

With Justice as the norm, Feminist Liberation Theology calls us to: 


the celebration of the particularity of each person 

affirmation of sensuality and sexuality 

love and affection 

restoration of hope 
the joy of play 

peace fulfilled basic needs 

a. sense of global family 

freedom from fear harmony with all of creation 

the power of ritual 
mutual relationality 

intergenerational connections 

open friendship justice 

empowerment of our communities 

joyful movement 

fair distribution of goodies 

affirmation of child-likeness 

passionate living 

All are invited to join the dance! All are welcome! 


Linda B. Brebner 
November, 1988 
Hodified December, 1989 


Background ; My ministry as a Presbyterian clergywoman -for the past 25 
years has always had a strong social justice dimension. There are not many 
social justice issues in which I have not been involved to one degree or 
another. I began with a real sense of caring which demonstrated itself in 
service. Then through my growing involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, I 
began to understand that justice was what was called for although I was not 
sure how I could make a difference. Since the time I self-consciously 
identified myself as a feminist in 1971, I found that through becoming aware 
of my own oppression, the oppression of others took on new meaning for me. I 
began more fully to understand the systemic nature of injustice and the kind 
of commitment which was involved in the changing of structures. 1 also became 
aware of the connections among oppressions and of the necessity to address 
those linkages through coalitions of groups of justice-making persons. 

As I have struggled with these many justice issues, I have found myself, 
along with others, frustrated by the reality that many times we have been less 
than successful in bringing about the changes which we have perceived were 
needed. Sometimes we did not have the proper analysis of the political, 
social, economic situation which we faced, and other tines we did not seem to 
have the tools to move beyond our analysis to bring -about the change which we 
felt was required. Also many times the alliances and coalitions which we 
built fell apart at significant points. Other times some of us have fallen 
apart physically, emotionally or spiritually. In the midst of the fray, it 
was often difficult to reflect on the issues of analysis and process. The 
process of writing this thesis has provided me with the opportunity for such 

intentional re-fiection. 

During the -first years of my ministry I was comfortable and proud to 
call myself a liberal as opposed to more conservative political and 
theological perspectives. However, as I became more sensitive to the depth of 
the change required for liberation, I began to see that uncritically embracing 
liberalism (even feminist liberalism) aight be part of the problem in my 
analysis and advocacy. Having said that, I find it is important to affirm 
that it is in Liberal Feminist soil that I discovered the seeds of Feminist 
Liberation. It is both those seeds of Feminist Liberation and the : 
contradictions which I find in Liberal Feminism which compel me to embrace a 
Feminist Liberation analysis. It is really my experience that I flow back and 
forth between the two analyses, and depending on the context I experience 
those two viewpoints in different ways at different times. 

At tiroes I find Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation compatible, 
while other times I believe it is my Liberal Feminism which shields me froir: 
recognizing the necessity of and blocks me from embracing Feminist Liberation. 
Thus I fail to take the significant risks involved in truly confronting the 
oppressive structures of the church and society. It seems that Liberal 
Feminism has provided me with a more comfortable analysis which in most ways 
does not really challenge the status quo or the systemic nature of injustice. 
Liberal Feminism has answered calls -for justice in Central America with 
heartfelt anger and concern but with caution not to support revolution, calls 
for justice for the homeless with shelters and soup kitchens but with no 
economic analysis or change, calls for justice for women with the struggle for 
the Equal Rights Aaendment but with little awareness of the connections among 
the various oppressions and how white middle-strata (1) women participate in 

the privilege o-f race and class. 

At one time these Liberal Feminist positions indicated progress to me, 
but now I wonder whether they only blunt the cries o-f the oppressed by seeming 
to respond while all the time the power relationships remain the same. There 
are ways in which the liberal response may ameliorate the worst effects o-f 
injustice thereby deradicalizing those who would fight the oppression they 
experience. Within Liberal Feminism there has been a real commitment to cure 
the ills of society but without an understanding of the need for the 
fundamental changing of the patriarchal structures of society which are ' 
integral to oppression and injustice. Having said that, ironically I must 
also say that it is in the very incremental responses of Liberal Feminism that 
I see some glimmers of Feminist Liberation. It is the place where I find 
signs of hope for transformation and at the same time the place where my 
frustrations grow to the unendurable point. It is for this reason that I wish 
to focus my work on encouraging myself and others to explore those 
relationships and to see how they affect our lives and ministries. 

As a feminist Christian clergy woman who is trying to move more 
consistently away from Liberal Feminism and toward Feminist Liberation, I need 
to distinguish between the two, to struggle with how a person obtains and 
sustains a liberation worldview and praxis, and to identify how such a 
worldview and praxis impact my ministry and the ministry of other white, 
-•iddle-strata feminist Christian women, -both lay *nd clergy, who are actively 
involved in doing justice in the church and the world. 

I want to challenge myself and other white feminist Christian women to 
struggle with the issue of what it means to be committed to a Feminist 
Liberation model of justice and to live our lives consistent with that 

commitment in order to be honest with ourselves and with those with whom we 
are in solidarity as we join la lucha , Spanish for "the struggle which is 
life itself." I believe, as Christians,, we are called to do justice as our 
life work which is also our faith work. No one knows in what context or 
community one will be called to do justice, but that "la lucha" is always 
there, one can be assured. Within the vocation of doing justice, we are 
called to be astute and effective in that struggle. I believe Feminist 
Liberation provides the greatest possibility for fulfilling that vocation and 
enables us to set our goals and strategies appropriately. 

My Particularity and My Communities of Accountability : In order to do 
my work with clarity and integrity, I believe it is important to state that I 
am a white, middle-strata, Presbyterian clergywoman who is a. citizen of the 
United States. I was among the first 50 women ordained in the United 
Presbyterian Church, and it has been an exciting and frightening journey. Six 
years after my ordination which took place in 1965, I became a feminist, and 
my life and ministry have never been the same. It was a. paradigm shift which 
has been life-transforming for me. The addressing of institutional injustice 
became central to my understanding of my ministry. Although I continue to 
operate much of the time from intuition in the doing of justice, I have 
increasingly realized my need for a liberation analysis of the systemic nature 
of oppression and of effective strategies for opposing it. 

It is important to mention that I have struggled greatly with whether or 
not intentionally to use my identity as a lesbian as a factor in this work. 
My fear has been that such a "blatant" acknowledgement of the role of my 
lesbianism in my theological and political development would block my work 
from being heard by »any of the persons with whom I wish to communicate. 

However the more I have questioned whether I could point out my lesbianism as 
a significant prism through which I view the issue of embracing Feminist 
Liberation, the more I have realized that it is impossible for me to do this 
work with integrity without explicitly affirming the role that my lesbianism 
has played in who I am, what I believe and which commitments I hold dear. It 
is the only way I can speak the truth I perceive from whence I stand. 

My people (2) are white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian clergywomen, 
•any of whom are struggling with the same questions I am. All of ay 
Presbyterian clergy sisters are my community of accountability and support. 
This circle quickly expands to white, middle-strata feminist clergywomen of 
all other denominations. The denominational lines have little meaning, most 
of the time, to those of us who are feminist clergywomen. 

My people also include feminists who are laywomen across the 
Presbyterian Church and within other denominations. I am particularly 
concerned about the power divisions which exist between clergywomen and 
laywomen. I both recognize the separations and am committed to the coming 
together of women across those lines. I also choose to respond to the voices 
of racial ethnic women in the United States and to women around the world, for 
it is from them that I have learned so much of what I know about justice and 
sisterhood. However, I have chosen specifically to direct this thesis to 
white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian clergywomen because of the special 
accountability I have to thee *nd they to «e. 1 feel «y morY -will speak #ost 
profoundly to them and that my call and challenge will have particular 
authenticity within that circle. Even «ore specifically, I direct «y thesis 
to those who have a Feminist Liberation analysis but are working and living 
where that analysis is rejected or ignored and to those who hold to a Liberal 

Feminist analysis but are -finding that analysis problematic or unsatisfactory. 
I do hope that others within and outside o-f the Presbyterian Church and the 
United States will also find my work helpful as they struggle on their 
particular issues in their particular times and places. 

The Goals of the Thesis : The nature of ay thesis is potentially all- 
encompassing; therefore it is important for me to state the goals which I wish 
to fulfill in this thesis, realizing that work on these goals may lead me to 
•any questions and issues which will have to be addressed at a another time. 
My stated goals are as follow: 

1. To identify the ways in which Liberal Feminism points or fails to 
point the way to Feminist Liberation. 

2. To discover what personally, institutionally, societal ly, and 
intellectually blocks and facilitates white, middle-strata feminist 
Presbyterian clergywbmen in moving more consistently toward Feminist 

3. To uncover the limitations and risks of feminist Presbyterian 
clergy women continuing to affirm and use a Liberal Feminist analysis as a 
foundational base for our lives and ministries. 

4. To clarify what the implications are of embracing a Feminist 
Liberation analysis on the personal lives and ministries of Presbyterian 

5. To create a vision of Feminist "Liberation toward which we can 
individually and corporately «ove with intentionality and commitment. 

The Limitations of the Thesis : Having stated my goals, it is important 
to indicate the limitations I have drawn for my work. The following are the 
intended limits: 

1. I have a built-in bias to Feminist Liberation toward which I would 
hope that Christians -feminists would move. Although I believe that there are 
some positive aspects to Liberal Feminism, increasingly I see myself, and 
encourage others in, embracing Feminist Liberation. Thus in my thesis I am 
assuming, not arguing, the desirability o-f a Feminist Liberation perspective 
as opposed to a Liberal Feminist stance. 

. I have chosen to -focus this thesis on the lives and ministries of 

white, aiddle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen. I have chosen to do so for 
several reasons. First, I am concerned that many white, middle-strata women 
have failed to see our particularity as being important; therefore we have 
also failed to honor the particularity of others different from ourselves. We 
have often mistakenly thought we could speak for all women. I am attempting 
to speak about and to women most like me in experience while recognizing that 
each of us is unique. Second, -feminists have often come together and assumed 
that because we were all feminists, there were no significant differences. In 
so doing, we have ignored the differences in privilege and power, especially 
those represented by our race «nd class, kie have falsely assumed we were 
being inclusive while overlooking the power dynamics present in the group 
which work against trust and communication so necessary for working together. 
I have chosen for this thesis to reduce the power differential within my 
primary support group by choosing to limit the composition of its •embership. 
I realize that I am taking a risk that 1 aay have aade a mistake; but there 
being no perfect process, I cannot avoid some risk. 

Methodology : My methodology reflects »y commitment to honoring my own 
experience while realizing that the experience of j>y sisters is also essential 
for my work. In order to be accountable to those to and on behalf of whom I 

airi particularly writing this thesis, I invited a small group o-f white, middie- 
strata feminist Presbyterian clergy women, both lesbian and heterosexual, to 
participate in a week-end retreat during which we re-flected on our experiences 
as clergywomen as they relate to the issues focused on in my thesis. In this 
setting I related as a peer and colleague, rather than a distanced researcher, 
since I perceived my thesis work to emerge -from our experiences and to speak 
to all o-f us about our lives and ministries. I did not see this retreat as a 
field project per se, but rather as a means of Baking sure that my lived 
experience and the conclusions I might come to in this thesis were reflective 
of the experience of a broader group of feminist Presbyterian clergywomen. 
In order to correct for assumptions and distortions which might have 
emerged from our work as a result of our race and status as white clergywomen, 
I asked three racial ethnic clergywomen and three lay denominational staff 
women to respond to the summary I made of the work that we white clergywomen 
did in our retreat as well as the written responses which each woman gave to a 
schedule of questions I sent to them. I did not ask them (racial ethnic 
clergywomen and lay staff women) whether they had had the same experience, but 
whether they saw any places where I had missed some important insights into 
our experience which might be clearer to those who use different lenses 
through which to look at some of the same issues. I chose to be accountable 
to a larger group of Presbyterian women because it was a means of 
acknowledging the particular experiences of particular women who are employed 
within the Presbyterian Church. I also asked the racial ethnic clergywomen 
and national lay staff women some additional questions to elicit some comments 
on their own experiences. I decided to pay these six women small honoraria 
(3) so as to acknowledge symbolically the work they did for roe since they may 


not benefit as directly from my work and thesis. 

I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet in December, 
1989, with three Steering Committee members of Church Employed Women, who 
served with me during my two years o-f service (1972-1974). They were Carol 
Ames, Annette Wall, and Shirley Wooden, and Ann DuBois joined us -for our week- 
end to help us to reflect and to record our memories. In addition, Annette, 
Ann and I met with Maggie Kuhn, who was the staff to the Professional Women's 
Caucus (one of the predecessor groups to CEW) and a continuing support person 
to CEW. Her recollections were most helpful to me. Lastly, Ann and I spent 
two days at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia reading 
through the records of the life of CEW during the period from 1972 to 1975. 
Without ail of these resources, both personal and written, the writing of 
Chapter I would have been virtually impossible. I am very grateful to all of 
these sisters for the time and energy they generously contributed to my work. 

In addition to the above consultants for my thesis, I have used the 
lives and the work of three feminist theologians. Carter Heyward, Letty 
Russell and Dorcthee Soelle as illustrative of the journey toward Feminist 
Liberation. I realize that like so many of us who struggle to embrace 
Feminist Liberation, these three women manifest in their lives and work the 
pressures, contradictions, frustrations and joys of that journey. I have read 
extensively of their written work and have interviewed them personally 
regarding their experiences of that journey. I interviewed Heyward and 
Russell in face-to-face encounters, but I was limited to taped and written 
communication with Soelle since she was not planning to be in this country 
during the period in which I was doing research for this thesis. 

The Flow of the Thesis : I had planned to have the thesis begin with 

my own life and ministry as described in the Introduction -followed by the 
description of Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation. Then I wanted to 
establish a base line of the journey -from Liberal Feminism to Feminist 
Liberation as presented in the lives and ministries o-f the three -feminist 
theologians. Next I was going to move into a summary o-f the discussions I had 
with the other white middle-strata Fresbyterian clergywomen about our lived 
experiences which would -further expand «y understanding of the journey on 
which we had embarked from Liberal Feminism to Feminist Liberation. The.- added 
insight of lay staff women and racial ethnic clerqywomen would then help me to 
correct any false assumptions and to move into a clearer understanding of 
where white, middle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen may have missed some 
important connections along the way. Lastly I wanted to consider the 
theological and ethical implications of this journey on the lives and 
ministries of white, middle-strata Fresbyterian clergywomen. 

The flow of this thesis has changed dramatically several times due to 
the results of my research. 1 will continue to focus on my own experience as 
reflected in my life and ministry in the Introduction and throughout the 
thesis where appropriate. Chapter I will tell the story and give a brief 
analysis^ of the life of Church Employed Women, a national advocacy group for 
women employed by the United Presbyterian Church in the 1970s, which I co- 
chaired for two years. I had initially 'thought CEW would be the 
quintessential illustration of Liberal Feminism; but as a result of 
conversations with other CEW members and my own further analysis, I now wish 
to use CEW as a case study of early experiences of Feminist Liberation. In 
Chapter II I will briefly define the elements of Liberal Feminism and Feminist 
Liberation and how they interact so as to provide a common ground of 


understanding o-f how I am understanding these terms. Chapter III will focus 
on the work and lives o-f the three Feminist Liberation theologians as a way of 
showing how Feminist Liberation is embodied in their lives and works and how 
the Feminist Liberation vision calls Presbyterian clergywomen to respond. 
Chapter IV will reflect my conversations with the white, middle-strata 
feminist Presbyterian clergywomen and their written responses to questions I 
posed to them. This chapter will make clear that this group of clergywomen 
(which was about as progressive as they come) was decidedly positioned within 
Liberal Feminism. Then in Chapter V I will suggest some reasons why I believe 
that we tend to resist the analysis, commitments, and strategies of Feminist 
Liberation. In chapter VI I will concentrate on the vision which Feminist 
Liberation offers and what difference Feminist Liberation might make in the 
lives and ministries of white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian 
clergywomen. Lastly, in Chapter v'll I will pose some possible strategies 
which will help Presbyterian clergywomen to move toward Feminist Liberation. 
Tnere is no separate chapter reflecting the responses of the racial ethnic 
clergywomen and the lay staff women. Rather I have chosen to integrate their 
responses into my last three chapters. I have used quotes where possible, but 
more important is the general impact their responses made on my thinking and 
my writing. To these sisters, I am deeply indebted for the tenor of this 
thesis as well as for the specific cited responses they made. 

Dedication ; I wish to dedicate this thesis to Ann EuBois, whose 
encouragement and support, both professional and sisterly, made all the 

to Carter Heyward, Dorothee Soelle and Letty Russell, whose lives and 
works help me to know that Feminist Liberation is possible. 


to Carter Heyward, Joanna Dewey and Katie Cannon, my advisors on this 
thesis, whose long-suffering over drafts, even ones coming from Latin America, 
and whose confidence in my ability to complete this work kept me going when 
the going was tough. 

to Lark, Dweller, Janelle, Virginia, Red, Daisy, Ruby Fruit, River 
Woman, and Deborah, my Presbyterian clergywomen colleagues, who shared 
precious stories of their lives with me and helped to mirror for me my own 
precious memories. Their experiences and commitments called me to account and 
sharpened my vision. 

to Sally, Doris, Margaret, Phyllis, Susan, and Mary, the racial ethnic 
clergywomen and lay staff women, my sisters who shared their precious stories 
and helped me to see how important our particularities are. 

to Card Ames, Shirley Wooden, Annette Wall, and Maggie Kuhn, who shared 
with me the struggle of the CEW years and who dared to remember both the good 
and bad memories. 

To Elizabeth, Nancy, Pat, Gordon, Ann, Lois, Pauline and Molly, my 
colloquium mates, who first heard my ideas for this thesis, challenged my 
thinking, and supported me as I struggled to give birth to this thesis. Also 
to Joanna Dewey, our colloquium professor, who kept us on track in our task 
and who was our advocate and critic at every turn. 

To Carol Ames, Peta Blake, Jackie Girard, Jeffrey Mills, Joan Horgan 
Richard Brown, Lieve Troch, and Julie Wilson, who worked long and hard to help 
•e get this thesis in and out of the computer with -few mishaps and errors, in 
and out of the copier without losing any of the pages, and finally into the 
folders without pinching our fingers. 

And to all those who listened to my ideas and gave me new ideas over the 
dinner table at Episcopal Divinity School. 



Note: I want to acknowledge the real help that Nancy Richardson gave »e in 
thinking creatively about the methodology of this thesis, and her clear 
guidance shows up most clearly in this chapter. 

1. My use of the word, "strata," is in response to the concern reflected by 
Isasi Diaz and Tarango: 

Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology uses the tern strata because some 
factors usually not included in the Anglo concept of class are very 
important and play a major role in determining to which strata any given 
person might belong. For example, the longer a family has been a member 
of a given community, the higher the strata to which the members of the 
family belong; if the family has been among the founders of the town, 
parish, or organization, the strata of its members is high, regardless 
of present economic status... 

Isasi Diaz, Ada rtaria and Tarango, Yolanda, Hispanic Women: Prophetic Voice in 
the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 62. 

2. "My people" is a term used to name a group with which one identifies most 
significantly in relation to one's particularities. In this case, the group I 
call my people are white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian clergywomen with 
whom I share race, class, political persuasion, religious affiliation and 
profession. At various points, a person may lift up different groups to 
identify as "my people" depending on the context. 

3. I have been fortunate to have the financial support of the Presbyterian 
Church (U.S.A.) in bringing the group of white, middle-strata clergywomen 
together, in transcribing the tapes from that gathering and in providing these 
small honoraria. 


Chapter I 
Church Employed Women: Early Experiences o-f Feminist Liberation 

One of the places where I invested much o-f my early -feminist years 
was in Church Employed Women (CEW), an organization developed around the 
issues o-f women employed in the United Presbyterian Church (UPCUSA). When I 
initially thought o-f including a chapter about CEW in this thesis, I had 
planned to use it as an illustration o-f Liberal Feminism at work in the 
UPCUSA. However, I discovered that my recollections, and those o-f other women 
involved in CEW during that period (These are the women with whom I met in 
December, 1989.), pointed in the direction o-f CEW' s reflecting much more 
Feminist Liberation than I had originally believed, albeit many times an 
intuitive, and often unintentional, liberation. Since my early development as 
a feminist was closely related to my experience in CEW, I offer this chapter 
as a case study to introduce some issues that emerged during those years. 
Many of those issues have spurred me on to ask the questions I am asking in 
this thesis. 

After laying out the historical base, I wish to describe CEW (especially 
during the years from 1972 to 1974 when I was deeply involved in its life as 
co-chairwoman of its Steering Committee, and its interrelationships with both 
the UPCUSA and the other women's constituency groups within the UPCUSA. Then 
I wish to highlight some of the ways in which CEW's history manifests Feminist 
Liberation leanings. In addition, I will analyze some results of the overall 
endeavors of CEW. Finally, I will indicate how these Feminist Liberation 
leanings were undermined, leading to CEW' s slipping into Liberal Feminism. 
(Since my analysis depends upon a comparison between Feminist Liberation and 

Liberal Feminism found in Chapter II, I have placed this analysis in Appendix 
I, which can be read a-fter referring to that material.) 
Early History 

In September, 1972, I was asked to attend an early meeting of the 
Steering Committee of Church Employed Women (CEW). As an organization, CEW 
was coming from a feminist perspective, and the members of the organization 
had high energy for bringing the "feminist revolution" to life in the UPCUSA. 
In Our Rightful Place: The Story of F'resbyter ian Women. 1970-1983 . Liz Verdesi 
and Lillian Taylor describe how the organization initially came together. 
They mention how the Task Force on Women (1) decided at its first meeting in 
1970 that it couldn't address all the issues regarding women so it set up a 
special group of clergywomen, educators and other professional women employed 
in the church to focus on the issues pertaining to the employment of women in 
the UPCUSA. This group, called the "Professional Women's Caucus," first met 
in November, 1970, and it was chaired by Rev. Willa Roghair with Maggie Kuhn 
giving staff support. (2) 

This caucus did some work in relation to the 1971 General Assembly 

(G.A.), held in Rochester, New York. Most significant, in my opinion, was the 

meeting of professional women employed by the church. I attended that 

•eeting, and it was there that I became self-consciously a feminist. That 

gathering was to have a profound iapact on the lives of «any women who 

attended it. A letter written by Liz Knott reflects this: 

...The 183rd General Assembly will always be a point of reference for 
me. You have opened the horizon — lifted the horizon of my own 
consciousness and conscience; you have opened and lifted the horizon of 
possibilities for professional and concerned women in the Church. I am 
excited about the future as never before; I am hopeful for the place of 
women; I am deeply concerned about the training of women to work within 
the political arena of the church and society for the supreme purpose of 
being "effective" reconcilers. Because of our noted history of 



experiences of discrimination and injustice, possibly we can become the 
instruments o-f advocacy and reconciliation -for our Black brothers and 
sisters and all minority persons. (This was the G.A. when tensions 
between Whites and Blacks were high because of the denomination's 
contribution to Angela Davis' legal defense fund.) In recalling the 
divisions on issues in the General Assembly — divisions theologically and 
racially, there is an urgency about our task — there is an urgency about 
our equipping the saints to become effective "operators" within and 
outside the system... 

Liz was to become an active member of the CEW Steering Committee, and she 

continues to struggle with many of these same issues many years later as the 

Executive for the Synod of Alaska/Northwest. 

In addition to the activating of professional women employed within the 

UPCUSA, other movements going on in the church would impact this new caucus: 

As a result of an action by the General Assembly in 1971, which called 
for the upgrading and enhancement of the status of women employed as 
secretaries, office managers, etc., a series of luncheon meetings had 
been scheduled in the board offices in the Witherspoon Building in 
Philadelphia and at 475 Riverside Drive, New York. There, interested 
women employees discussed their concerns, grievances, problems — as well 
as their hopes for the reorganized church (a restructuring was occurring 
at this time), and their anxieties about possible termination, 
unemployment compensation and retirement/termination benefits. Annette 
Wall reported that these women employees "would favor joining with the 
Professional Women's Caucus. " (3) (Appendix A provides some of Annette's 
notes about the early history of the Women's Committee in Philadelphia.) 

It is clear, in its minutes, that the Professional Women's Caucus was mindful 

of class differences, and that by responding positively to the overture of the 

women in "support positions," they were trying to offset those divisions. The 

minutes of the Krisheim Meeting reflect this commitment: 

The Steering Committee (of Professional Women's Caucus) responded 
affirmatively to this report, stating that women employees should be 
included and expressing hope that the caste system of the boards 
perpetuated by false distinctions between 'executive' and 'clerical' 
jobs could be eliminated. Such a system has no place in the new 
sisterhood. (4) 

This action reflects one of the great strengths of CEW. It understood 

that doing justice for women involves more than attempting monolithicallv to 


address the problem o-f sexism. Economic/class realities, -for example, were 

critical to women's well-being. (5) It was certainly a glimmer o-f liberation 

that this group, unlike almost every other denomination's comparable 

organization, brought all employed women together. This invited the 

realization o-f a »uch larger scope o-f issues needing to be addressed by one 

small organization with no regularized -financial support or staf-f. Once it 

had made that commitment, however, it tried to be evenhanded in the allotment 

o-f its time and energy in terms o-f the various groups o-f women it considered 

to be included in its constituency. 

At the G.A. in 1972, the organization of Church Employed Women was 

approved as an organized group within the denomination. Further activity by 

CEW at the 1972 G.A. is recorded: 

...As part o-f the restructuring, the General Assembly also accepted a 
plan submitted by the Committee on Reorganization which established a 
"Consulting Committee on Women Employed by the Church" as part o-f the 
new Vocation Agency. According to this plan, at least -five members o-f 
the Consulting Committee were to be named by the CEW organization. CEW 
had also requested a budget o-f $5,000 -from the General Assembly. This 
request was rejected, which meant -for CEW a continuing dependency on 
membersnip dues and on the generosity of the Task Force on Women and of 
the Board of Christian Education (which made a program grant to CEW in 
June of that year). (6) 

Having made it clear that it would take over the responsibilities for 

the issues of women employed by the church, CEW, at its meeting in September, 

1972, somewhat distanced itself from the Task Force on Women. It was at that 

•eeting that "a national structure of Church Employed Women was established 

...with four regions, each of which was to be represented on an 18-»ember 

Steering Committee. Clergywomen, educators, secretaries, etc., were to be 

included in each region's representation. " (7) (For «ore on a sense of the 

purpose of CEW and its efforts to find a place within the UPCUSA at that time, 


see Appendix B.) It was also at that meeting, i>y -first, that I was elected to 
be the co-chair to serve with Annette Wall, a secretary at the Board o-f 
Christian Education in Philadelphia. Suddenly I was leading a fledgling 
organization in a very tumultuous sea o-f the UPCUSA during a period of 
restructuring. Certainly it was a case of "treading where angels fear to go." 
Life with Church Employed Women 1972-1974 

I now wish to point out what I believe to be particularly important 
realities in the life of Church Employed Women, realities that indicate a 
tendency toward Feminist Liberation or away from it. 

The Steering Committee : As I think back to my years with Church 
Employed Women, I am particularly mindful of the women with whom I worked on 
the Steering Committee. All were very committed to women employed in the 
UPCUSA, but each also had great needs of her own. They needed support; 
therefore much of our meeting time was spent listening to and advising one 
another about problems that related to CEW's concerns, but didn't always move 
us along on to our heavy and urgent corporate agenda. (8) At each meeting we 
heard our quota of horror stories. The women who were unemployed at the last 
meeting might now be employed, but others were about to take their places in 
the unemployment line. It was impossible for some women to set aside their 
own agendas for the entire meeting, which made it difficult to proceed with 
the group's agenda. Chairing the meetings was sometimes horrendous. Annette 
Wall, co-chairwoman with «e 1972-1973, recalls feeling that by the end of soae 
■eetings she was behaving like Attila the Hun in order to get things done. 

In addition to the personal dynamics, we struggled with the dual need to 
build horizontal relationships among our group and beyond and to address 
employed women's issues in the hierarchical/vertical organization of the 


denomination. We also experienced the pull between addressing national issues 
and building a grassroots organization. There was also the rather 
schizophrenic phenomenon of wanting to be in the system while critiquing it 
unmercifully. One minute we were distressed because we were excluded and the 
next we became aware that the only reason we could confront the system, as we 
were, was because we were not a part of it. Considering the competing 
dynamics in most of our meetings, it is, indeed, amazing that we accomplished 
so much during those years. (See Appendix C. ) Because we were all new to 
feminism and to church politics, it was difficult for us to sort out or 
analyze how to make decisions as we operated in the midst of these tensions 
and contradictions. 

Relationships with Other Women's Constituencies : In our first couple of 
years, CEW had to do much negotiating with other women's constituencies, 
including the newly organized Council on Women and the Church (COWAC), the 
successor group to the Task Force on Women. COWAC was basically a liberal 
feminist body, as distinguished from United Presbyterian Women (UPW), a long- 
established and well-heeled organization of women organized at the local, 
regional and national levels of the UPCUSA. We also developed a relationship 
with Third World Women's Coordinating Committee (TWWCC), another new 
organization composed of women of color representing black, hispanic, asian 
and native american women. The interrelationships with these groups were 
complex. In the early years, CEW tended to stand with COWAC and TWWCC in 
opposition to the leadership of UPW, which seemed to want to preserve their 
institutional relationships, roles, and concerns pretty «uch the way they 
were. (9) The rest of us were struggling for things to be changed in 


significant ways, at least we thought so. Verdesi describes these complicated 

relationships very well: 

Perhaps the situation can best be understood if likened to a 
■family, .. .where "Mother UPW, " after years of nurturing and protecting 
her "daughters," COWAC and TWWCC, helped to educate them and watched 
them launch out on careers of their own. "Mother" was even supportive 
of CEW. Though not a daughter, CEW seemed without a home and therefore 
in need of "Mother's" friendliness. But "Daughter COWAC" seemed 
unnecessarily uppity — as well as extremely patronizing to "Mother." At 
the same time, "Mother" was hopelessly old-fashioned and submissive so 
far as "COWAC" was concerned. And according to "Mother," "Daughter 
TWWCC" did not express proper appreciation for all the help "Mother" 
gave her. While from TWWCC's perspective, it seemed as if "Mother" was 
continually trying to determine how TWWCC should use the help she 
gave. (10) 

UPW had the advantage of having its own history, autonomy and money, and COWAC 

was a Council directly related to the General Assembly Mission Council with 

regular funding, while CEW and TWWCC constantly were forced to find money from 

one pocket or another. The difficulties and differences among the four 

constituencies were understandable, but they were also taken advantage of by 

the ecclesiastical system. The established power bases could use our 

intergroup struggles against us. 

Specific Endeavors of Church Employed Women ; Soon after my election as 

co-chair of CEW in 1972, I moved to Philadelphia to "staff" CEW, for which I 

received a small stipend from the Board of Christian Education, as well as to 

be co-chair. It was an exciting and terrifying time to be doing what I was 

doing. It was exciting because Annette and I were both in Philadelphia, and 

we aade a good team with different skills and backgrounds. We found ourselves 

traveling on behalf of CEW almost every week-end which was both exciting and 

exhausting. (11) When all else failed, Annette's humor got us through. There 

was little we would not attempt with a little support from Pat Kepler, the 

staff person related to the Task Force on Women. (12) We were strengthened by 


the CEW group behind us, and we used the referent power -from that group to do 
work on CEW's behalf. Some of our endeavors were: 

1. Challenging the Vocation Agency : One of the first things to happen, 
after I moved to Philadelphia, was that the Vocation Agency Board totally 
ignored the fact that CEW was the organization that had proposed the 
establishment of the Consulting Committee on Women Employed by the Church. The 
Board failed to permit CEW, as all had agreed, to appoint at least five 
•embers to the this committee. Instead the Vocation Agency Board decided to 
request an ad hoc group of women to appoint the five members. (13) These women 
had been invited to come together (for a one-time conference in Louisville in 
January, 1973) as individuals, rather than representatives, even though they 
came from each of the women's constituencies, including CEW. Upon receiving 
this information, Annette Wall and I were outraged; however, this experience, 
in the end, became one of empowerment. We requested a meeting with Don Smith, 
the new General Director of the Vocation Agency. The only mutually possible 
time for us to meet with him was during the upcoming CEW Steering Committee 
meeting. Even though it would be in the middle of our CEW meeting time, we 
felt that we had no choice but to see him then since the ad hoc conference was 
happening the next week. Once the gathered women had made their appointments, 
it would be too late for CEW to act. 

When Annette and I reported what was going on to the gathered Steering 
Committee members, who were then meeting in New York City, they too were 
furious and insisted that all of us go to see Don Smith. When the time came, 
all IB of us stood in the outer office of the Vocation Agency. When Don came 
out, he was shocked. As the women of many different church professions fro« 
all over the U.S. introduced themselves, it was clear that Don was impressed. 


Annette and I did have broad support, and we had a real constituency. We had 
agreed that only -five of us would speak during our time with Don. As Don 
ushered us into his small temporary office, Nelle Morton put down a tape 
recorder and said, "Don, you won't mind if we tape this conversation." It was 
a statement rather than a question. Don stood up against a partition between 
two windows looking pale and as i-f he had been impaled on an invisible sword. 
We clearly stated our demands regarding the appointments to the new Consulting 
Committee and our general relationship to the Vocation Agency. (14) After only 
a short time, Don said meekly, "It is obvious that we have made a real 
mistake. I will recommend to the Board that CEW be requested to appoint 
persons to the remaining five at-large spots on the Consulting Committee." 
He also suggested that we have a meeting with some o-f the Vocation Agency 
Board members to work out a better communication process. We were not with 
Don more than half an hour, but we had been heard. (15) 

We adjourned to the lounge downstairs and determined that we would 
request that our invited CEW members not attend the ad hoc meeting to be held 
in Louisville, and then we notified Mildred Grubbs (a staff member of the 
Vocation Agency located in Columbus, Ohio) of our decision. The word got back 
to Philadelphia before Annette and I returned that we had had a "sit in" in 
Don's office. We were a little uncomfortable with that label being attached 
to our confrontation, but in many ways it did describe what we had done. 

2. Work on the Equal Employment Opportunity Program ; Barely having time 
to celebrate our scrimmage with Don Smith, we requested an invitation (16) to 
have input into the new Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action 
Program (EEO/AAP) of the UPCUSA. We discovered that the denomination had paid 
Project Equality *20,000 (a large amount in 1972) to develop the EEO/AAP 

program, and the result was a program with not one mention of women. Annette 

and I realized that we knew little about EEO/AAP, except in the most general 

terms, so we asked Leon Calhoun, a Presbyterian layman who was a EEO/AAP 

officer for the State of New York, to coach us. He agreed to help us, but the 

only way we could meet him in Albany (because of financial restraints) was to 

go directly before our trip to Denver in April, 1973, to attend the meeting of 

the committee responsible for developing the EEO/AA Plan. We spent a night 

gathering as much information from Leon as we could cram into our heads and 

write down. When we arrived in Denver, we were "loaded for bear," and almost 

every recommendation we made to the EEO/AAP Committee was approved. We -did 

not know much, but we knew more than most of the members of the committee. 

Those recommendations (See Appendix D. ) stood as part of the EEO/AA Plan of 

the United Presbyterian Church until the merger with the Presbyterian Church, 

U.S., in 1983. 

3. Clergywomen" s Therapeutic Seminar : Another exciting CEW 

accomplishment during that year which I spent in the Philadelphia was that I, 

on behalf of CEW, approached Art Brown, top executive for the Board of 

Pensions, (17) asking that the Board of Pensions fund an intensive 

psychotherapy workshop led by Anne Wilson Schaef for clergywomen. We felt 

that working in the church was putting clergywomen at real risk for emotional 

and physical illnesses. We stated this belief clearly in our proposal: 

...The thrust would be to deal with the internal psychological problems 
from which women ministers suffer as a result of the pressures, 
dehumanizing experiences, failures and disillusionments which they meet 
while attempting to serve the church. It is important that this be an 
experience particularly geared to women since many of the negative 
experiences which they have in the church are due to the fact that they 
are women trying to survive in a male-dominated profession. 


We had wanted, -for some time, to have such a conference for clergywomen, but 
neither individual clergywomen nor CEW could afford the price, thus the reason 

for my negotiating with Art Brown. He and the Board approved a $7,600 grant 
with the understanding that this conference would be under the supervision of 
the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, the center where Presbyterian 
employees covered by the church medical insurance (related to our Pension 
Plan) had to go for all psychological evaluations, especially if they were 
going into long-term therapy. We weren't happy with this stipulation, but we 
had no alternative. We felt we could work around it. 

We contracted with Anne Wilson Schaef and Sylvia Ginsparg, the only 
woman psychologist on the Menninger staff, who agreed to work with us. When I 
went to Menninger to scout out the situation, I was concerned about Sylvia's 
lack of a feminist perspective, but she was all we had. After having had a 
face-to-face meeting and several conference calls between the planning team, 
it was clear that Anne and Sylvia would never be able to work together. 
Sylvia finally realized this and said she could not be one of the therapists 
for the conference; however, she agreed to be our liaison person with 
Menninger, which was really a magnanimous offer because it meant that the 
conference could still go on. 

There were 17 clergywomen with Anne Schaef and Ann Seiden, a 
psychiatrist from Chicago who was recruited at the last minute, as the 
therapists who came together in June, 1973, for this week-long conference. We 
■et in a «otel right next to Menninger. The only ti«es we went over to 
Menninger were to be subjected to a pre-conference appraisal, a post- 
conference evaluation, and an introductory film which all Menninger patients 
had to see. It just happened to show all the doctors as «en and all the 


patients as women. Our response to all three was incredulity. The pre- 
conference appraisal was a very strange set of exercises, and we wanted to 
know what they were all about. Our therapists asked, through Sylvia, if we 
could be told about these tests. She said we would be told as soon as we had 
■finished our final evaluation. When the time came, the Menninger doctors 
refused to give us an explanation. This made us very angry; however, all of 
us felt that our experience with our therapists was very helpful and 
beneficial. Anne Wilson Schaef's evaluation of the program indicated that we 
had experienced personal growth, theological reflection and increased 
awareness of the power dynamics of institutions. Menninger had unknowingly 
provided us with a wonderful laboratory experience of power dynamics. (18) 

On the other hand, when the evaluations of the experience (to which I 
was privy because I was the administrator o-f the conference) came through, I 
was shocked. Anne and Ann, our therapists, had each written up 20 pages or 
more of solid evaluations o-f the event, while Menninger sent a two-page 
evaluation that made some very strange appraisals of the clergywomen. Based 
on this strange battery of tests, they made outlandish claims that we were 
hypochondriacs, had trouble with our sexual identities, and were emotionally 
weak in various ways. I was appalled and went to Bill Henderson, a supportive 
staff person at the Vocation Agency. He too was shocked by the Menninger 
report. As a result of this experience, the Board of Pensions changed its 
policy which had required everyone on the Pension Plan who needed intensive 
therapy to go to Menninger for evaluations. However, only recently are those 
who are to be hospitalized no longer required to go to Menninger. We had made 
a great impact where we had not intended to. That was par for the course in 
our struqqles; we never knew when or how our tactics would be effective. 


4. Surveys of Our Constituencies : Another CEW effort that was to have 
long lasting effects was to survey all local church secretaries in the UPCUSA 

churches. Since their names were not recorded anywhere, our letter and 

questionnaire were addressed to "church secretary" in care of every United 

F'resbyterian Church. I think there were over 8,000 churches at that time, but 

•any were too small to have a secretary. Still and all, we received 2,488 

completed questionnaires. This was an outstanding return; a 10 percent return 

of personally addressed mailed surveys is considered to be excellent. (19) (For 

the results of the survey, see Appendix E.) The information we received was 

invaluable for becoming informed about the needs of the secretaries, hany of 

these secretaries became members of CEW and were active in more local 

groupings of church employed women, which the Steering Committee encouraged 

through our regional representatives. A number of regional conferences for 

secretaries were held during those early years, and legislation was introduced 

by CEW at General Assembly in 1973 to create personnel committees to address 

the issues of non-clergy employees of the UF'CUSA at all levels. One synod 

secretary registered her appreciation for the work which CEW was doing: 

You can't imagine how excited and happy I was to see that three of our 
synods are holding a conference for local church secretaries. I have 
thought and talked about something like this for years! However, when 
you are 'just the church secretary- or 'just the synod secretary' and 
those who have the say in program for a synod aren't interested, nothing 
comes of it. Most of our people have thought it was a pretty good idea, 
but not really needed — at least not as much as some other kinds of 
conferences. (20) 

Later that same year, we sent out a similar questionnaire to Christian 

£ducators, And even later, in 1973-74, ^lergywomen were surveyed. All of the 

responses to these questionnaires reflected the realities of women employed by 

the church, thereby giving guidance to CEW as it set its priorities and 


strategies. This data was also used to make the esse -for -financial and 
political support -for the organization when CEW was struggling to survive in 
relationship to the Presbyterian bureaucracy. 

5. The Hiring of the Coordinator of Employment Opportunities : During 
the -fall o-f 1973, I was requested by Don Smith to suggest names o-f clergywomen 
who might be considered -for the position o-f Coordinator of Employment 
Opportunities, who, among other duties would staff the Consulting Committee on 
Women Employed by the Church and provide placement services for women. We of 
the CEW Steering Committee were well aware of the importance of this position, 
so we consulted by phone about whom 1 might suggest. I finally submitted the 
names of three clergywomen. Several weeks later Don called me to say that he 
was thinking he would offer the job to a woman who had not been on our list 
and whom I had met at the Clergywomen" s Therapeutic Seminar the previous 
summer. I can remember being shocked by Don ? s choice, but realizing that I 
had to keep a cool head about me or I could blow it. I mentioned some of her 
skills, but I then went on to indicate that I had grave questions about this 
particular woman in this particular position. I didn't believe she could 
quickly and easily relate to people, a skill required to interview 
clergywomen when they came for placement help. Don then said, "Well, I had 
some questions about that too." I restrained myself from asking why, in that 
case, he had decided to hire her. He then asked what we should do. I said we 
needed to do another round of interviews for this position, and he agreed. 

He asked -for some other nates because the woaen on the -first list I had 
given him were either not available, did not have enough appropriate 
experience, or had interviewed poorly. I told him I would get back to him 
within a day or two. When I hung up, I wondered what CEW could do, since we 


had given him the best names the -first time. Then I remembered two married 
clergywomen, living away -from New York City, who would either have to move 
with their families to New York or have to be willing to have commuter 
marriages. After consulting with members of the Executive Committee of CEW, I 
gave Don the names and held my breath. As it turned out, Ann Conrad was 
willing to be interviewed. She had done some consulting work for CEW, so we 
were familiar with her and her work. She lived in Philadelphia with her 
husband, and she was willing to commute each day. 

As it happened, she was to be interviewed sometime in January, 1974, (21) 
close to the time that CEW' s Steering Committee was meeting in NYC. (22) I had 
informed the Steering Committee of the fact that Ann had been interviewed, but 
that I didn't know the outcome. During that meeting, Ann called to say that 
she had been offered the position, but she didn't think she was going to take 
it because they weren't willing to negotiate her hours and pay in relation to 
commuting daily from Philadelphia. I told her to get on the next train to 
NYC, and I would "talk turkey" to Edgar Ward, who was the Associate Director 
of the Vocation Agency and was responsible for the hiring for this position. 
I called up Ed and asked him how he liked Ann. He said he was very much 
impressed and would like to hire her. I said, "Well, you had better negotiate 
with her on her hours and pay or you're going to lose her. And you will be in 
trouble with CEW; she is our choice! Ann is on her way to NYC at this moment, 
*nd I know you will negotiate." He responded that he certainly would, but 
there was some incredulity in his voice. Ann was hired that afternoon with 
all of her requests being honored, and she held that position for 13 years 
until the church headquarters aoved to Louisville in 1988. It was a heady 


experience in so far as we were able to choose the person with whom we would 
work on issues of women employed by the church. 

6. The Layoffs on the National Staff : During those first months of Ann's 
tenure, things seemed to be moving in a direction for which we had all 
hoped. (23) There was one snag when an effort was made by the Consulting 
Committee for Women Employed by the Church to get Ann seated in the Executive 
Committee of the Vocation Agency Board. We were shot down, partly because we 
depended on Ann to help to carry the request to the Board instead of allowing 
her to recede into the woodwork during the debate. Also we had the audacity 
to ask for one of "ours" to be allowed to enter the inner sanctum of power. 
However, all in all, the first six months Ann was on board were good ones, but 
then disaster struck! 

During the General Assembly in May, 1974, it was made clear that the 
denomination's budget had fallen unexpectedly short by $5 million which meant 
probable layoffs. A large percentage of the staff had been hired only one 
year before, some of them leaving behind good jobs and moving long distances 
to join the national staff. CEW members were particularly shocked because we 
had actually encouraged women to submit their dossiers for positions on the 
national staff, for we believed the UPCUSA was serious about hiring women and 
racial ethnic persons. 

During that summer, chaos prevailed as councils, cabinets, and top 
management tried to figure out what to do. (24) In the aeantime, an ad hoc 
group of women on the national staff, who had «et together to support each 
other and to strategize our presence on the national staff, came up with a 
Nine-Month Plan, (See Appendix F.) whereby everyone would work for nine aonths 
a year with a month of paid vacation. The other two months we would be free 



to do consulting throughout the church or such personal projects as writing, 
vegetating, etc. We would have all had to struggle a bit to make ends meet, 
but we would have all had jobs. Our plan was thought to be an unique idea, 
but never taken seriously. The die was already cast. Once again, although 
women's constituencies were consulted, the -final decisions were in the hands 
o-f others. 

A large number o-F executive and support staff were laid off in the fall. 
All of us who were executives were given 6 months full pay and benefits and 
all kinds of special training money and placement help. (25) We called i-t 
"guilt money." Not surprisingly, women and racial ethnic persons were 
disproportionately laid off. The layoffs were said to be on the basis of 
function rather than seniority, which meant that women and racial ethnic 
persons had held marginal positions. (26) What is interesting is that almost 
every white man who was laid off was "saved" in some way. They all ended up 
with jobs of some sort while the women and racial ethnic persons were left to 
our own devices. Those employees who kept their jobs had almost a worse tiae 
than those of us who were laid off, because they were wounded from the process 
and felt guilty about having their jobs under those particular circumstances. 
(See Appendix 6 for CEW" s reaction to this period of UPCUSA's history.) 

One agreement the women staff •embers had with the Director of the 
Program Agency was that those who were terminated could take an ally with them 
•for their termination interviews. Irthen I learned that I was to be terminated, 
I asked Ann Conrad to go with me. Don Smith, General Director of the Vocation 
Agency, and Oscar McCloud, General Director of the Program Agency, consulted 
and decided that Ann couldn't go with me because she was on the Vocation 
Agency staff and that would be embarrassing to the Program Agency. It was a 


divide and conquer tactic, and it worked. Because Ann was new, she -felt she 

had no political base to oppose the directive -from Don and Oscar. This was 

probably true, but the impact o-f that decision on Anrrs relationship with CEW 

was to be pro-found. The trust level was newly established. Four active 

■embers o-f the CEW' s Steering Committee had lost their jobs, and Ann had hers. 

She had been unable to be visible in her support; therefore she became 

suspect. This tension continued -for years. In some very strange way the 

person whom we had chosen to be our advocate was now perceived to be an 

adversary within the establishment. The scars are deep, even though we 'are 

now supportive and friendly colleagues. During our gathering of clergywomen 

in Louisville in April, 1989, one of the former members of the PCUS who had 

nothing to do with CEW used the following analogy with which to respond when 

she heard this part of our history: 

The Urban League in Atlanta ran a racism seminar that was written up in 
the paper. When I read this little description, I thought, which I 
often do with these things, that also shows how I feel as a woman. The 
man who was leading the seminar picked a woman out of the audience and 
had her kneel down and bow with a teacup on her head. She had to hold 
her hand in a certain way, and do something else with the other hand. 
All this was very awkward, and she was having a whole lot of trouble 
with it. Then he asked the group to critique her. After they finished 
with that, he said, "None of you mentioned the fact that I am the one 
who put her in that position." 

Then the clergywoman went on to say to Ann, "You were the woman on her knees. 

CEW was also the woman on her knees. Nobody was critiquing who put you both 

in that position." 

Structural Relationships with the Church : There were «any ways in which 

we struggled in relating to the structure of the United Presbyterian Church. 

These structural issues faced CEW from the start, when the nature of the 

relationship was in question, as reflected in the Early History section. 

(Appendix B makes clear what the assumptions o-f the CEW Steering Committee 
were in 1972. ) 

To complicate -further an already complex situation, the -first year I was 
a chairwoman o-f CEW, we had our -first woman moderator of the General Assembly, 
Ruling Elder Lois Stair. At -first, it seemed as if Lois would be a real 
support to us, but as time went on it was clear that she had come up through 
the male system and had been chosen by men as an acceptable "first". We had 
experiences in which supportive men came to us to check out what we were 
seeking at the G.A. level because they questioned Lois" interpretation of our 
requests. We discovered that she acted very supportively when she was with 
us, but consciously or unconsciously misrepresented us before the General 
Assembly Mission Council (GAMC), which made recommendations to the total G.A. 
about structural relationships with and financial support of constituency 
funding projects. Sometimes she did not even cover her adversary role in 
relation to us. Annette Wall remembers being beckoned to defend CEW to the 
GAMC during the General Assembly of 1973. She still recalls it as a 
"horrifying experience" in which she alone faced Lois and her male colleagues 
from the GAMC. (We tried never to have one person left alone to fight for CEW. 
No one can recall how this happened on this important occasion.) During 
Annette's statement, Lois made asides to the effect that CEW was just an 
organizing group, like a labor union. Lois' behavior led directly to the 
fcAMC's rejection of our request (in July, 1973) <for a more formal relationship 
within the structure of the church with continuing funding. (See Appendix H. ) 
At this point CEW was forced to accept that we would not be a formal part of 
the structure so we sought to have Chapter 28 status granted to voluntary 
groups of Presbyterians. (27) 


As mentioned earlier, another struggle was in building a relationship 
with the Vocation Agency, with whom we had an o-f-ficial relationship even 
though we had no structural location. Following the conflict over CEW's 
appointments to the Consulting Committee on Women employed by the Church, CEW 
met with a -few members of the Vocation Agency Board to insure better 
communication in the future. CEW was invited to do some consciousness raising 
(around the issues of women employed by the church) at the full Board Meeting. 
As we planned for that gathering, we did not know we were dealing with such 
volatile issues. Looking back on it, I believe that our existence was yery 
intimidating to some. When we led a session, many of the Board members acted 
like unruly teenagers. At one point, a CEW member was leading a prayer, and 
some of the Board members tittered and laughed. Over a period of time, some 
of the Vocation Agency Board members became very supportive of our concerns, 
but it was only after many encounters. 

Those first years of CEW' s existence, were a time of denominational 
restructuring; there were vacuums of power, and we were, sometimes, able to 
take creative advantage of the disarray. Because some of our demands were 
met, we thought that we were making headway. We trusted the church; therefore 
we did not have our guard up, leaving us vulnerable. In some ways we were 
making changes, but in another sense the power dynamics remained unchanged. 
In the late '70s I heard a lecture by Noam Chomsky (a professor of linguistics 
at Boston University) that helped me understand the phenomenon CEW had 
experienced during those early years. Chomsky stated that those in power will 
make small shifts in response to the demands of those hurt by the 
institutional structures of a society. These small shifts usually pacify 
those making the demands because the shifts seem bigger from their perspective 


than they really are or they believe that such shifts are harbingers of bigger 
shifts to come. In reality, declared Chomsky, the small shifts are still 
within the "margin of oppression," permitting the power dynamics to remain the 
same while deluding the opposition. 

This is exactly what occurred in the UPCUSA in relation to the demands 
of CEW. For example, the EEO/AA Plan, which we worked so hard to impact, 
stood only for ten years and disappeared in the 1983 merger between the UPCUSA 
and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (our Southern cousin from 
whom we had been split over the Civil War). What was fascinating was that the 
white, liberal clergymen who had supported Civil Rights and Women's Rights 
were at the forefront of the reunion forces which were willing to sacrifice 
everything, including the hard-fought gains of women and racial ethnics, for 
the sake of reunion. One injustice (that of racism as fought over in the 
Civil War) was mended by creating more injustice! It is not surprising that 
many of the most "radical" clergywomen and women elders voted against reunion, 
not because we were opposed to our denominations joining together once again, 
but because the plan of reunion was unjust. 

Financial Struggles : One constant struggle for CEW was to get enough 
funding through a small annual membership fee ($5.00 per woman) and grants 
from various parts of the church. Most of the money, after the restructure, 
came from the Vocation Agency or the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, 
either through CEW" s proposing projects that needed to be done in relation to 
women employed by the church and asking to be funded or through the Vocation 
Agency or the Office of EEO proposing that we do a project they wanted done 
for which they would pay us. We were constantly having negotiations with Don 


Smith, the General Director of the Vocation Agency, or Bob Hoppe, Director of 
the Office of EEO. 

We badly needed funds just to get the Steering Committee, together so we 
would always agree to carry out tasks and studies that the V.A. or EEO wanted 
done. As a result, we had to respond to their agenda. They, many times, 
didn't really seem pleased with the work we did; subtle comments would be made 
about it not being complete. It seemed as if they felt we should not only 
make proposals and recommendations but that we also should be able to solve 
the problems of employed women in the F'CUSA. The victims should solve the 
problems! There was an implicit, if not explicit, control on our agenda? 

Don Smith and Bob Hoppe heard some of our concerns, but they had to 
operate within a decidedly sexist system. We were constantly preoccupied 
about securing funds. In our work with Bob Hoppe, the Director of the Equal 
Employment Office, some of our unemployed members were employed as consultants 
to do work for him. The agreement was that these members would be paid a very 
good salary for that work, and would give some of it to CEW for our brokering 
of the contracts. 

More and more, CEW was compromised because we had no money or staff. (28) 
In our very effort to remain viable so as to challenge the ways things were, 
we had to take money from two sources, the denomination (Vocation Agency and 
Office of EEO) and COWAC. We were more and more aware of how our work for the 
denoainational entities compromised our effectiveness in naming the oppression 
perpetrated by the denomination and its boards, agencies and councils. Less 
clear to us was that by giving us grants to do some of our pilot ministry 
projects, COWAC was also determining our agenda. No longer was CEW able to 
maintain its autonomy nor were we allowed to do our work on employment issues 

unencumbered. For example, COWAC decided to do a study of the denominational 
seminaries without ever acknowledging that this was an area in which CEW and 
COWAC should, at least, be working together. 

Power Dynamics Within CEW : A complicating -factor in the second year I 
served as co-chair was that Fay Noack, the other co-chairwoman of CEW, 
continued to be our representative to COWAC. Thus she filled two roles, both 
of which held a lot of power in our organisation but which were sometimes 
contradictory. She was COWAC s coordinator of the seminary study as well as 
the one COWAC appointed (without consulting with the CEW Steering Committee) 
to supervise one of CEW's pilot ministry projects. I sensed that we as -an 
organization were being co-opted more and more by the denomination and COWAC, 
but others on the Steering Committee did not understand my concern. Finally I 
resigned before completing my second term as co-chairwoman. Unfortunately, 
the result was that I was never replaced, and the by-laws were changed soon 
thereafter to allow for one chairwoman and one vice chairwoman, each of whom 
could be in office for two years with a third-year extension possible. A more 
hierarchical organization developed from then on, with one person in charge 
with less accountability. At the very time when there was someone in office 
who was amassing power, the organization relinquished its own power. Fay only 
relinquished her power in CEW when she was elected chair of COWAC, which was a 
position with more status. If one looks at the description of the kinds of 
endeavors done by CEW from this point on, one finds evidence that CEW's 
radicality had been neutralized. No longer was there *n effort to bring about 
transformative change. The focus got placed more and more on education and 
moving the furniture around. Any unique programs had been initiated or 
dreaaed about during the former, more radical, years. (An analysis of the life 


of CEW (1972-1974 is -found in Appendix I.) 



1. It was five employed women in the Philadelphia Office of the UF'CUSA who 
back in the late r 60s pushed the denomination to address the issue of the role 
and status of women both in church and society which led to special 
commissions. The work of these commissions resulted in the appointment of 
the Task Force on Women mentioned throughout this chapter. (This information 
was given to me by Maggie Kuhn, who was one of the five women.) 

2. Elizabeth Verdesi and Lillian Taylor, Our Rightful Place; The Story of 
Presbyterian Women, 1970-1963 <New York and Atlanta: Presbyterian 
Church(U.S.A.) 1985, p. 17. 

3. Ibid, pp. 18-19. 

4. Lois A. Boyd and R. Douglas Brackenr idge, Presbyterian Women in America 
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983), p. 220. 

5. CEW failed to address the issue of race as well as it did that of class. 
Efforts were made to encourage women of color to join us, but we were not 
aware of our white privilege. Also at that time relatively few women of color 
were employed by the UPCUSA. (Most of those who were, were secretaries.) For 
example, the first woman of color was not ordained as a minister until 1974, 
and she was Katie Cannon! 

6. Elizabeth Verdesi and Lillian Taylor, Our Rightful Place , p. 19. 

7. Ibid. 

8. For example, Joyce Manson, member of the CEW Steering Committee, wrote a 
report, part of which appeared in the newsletter in January, 1973. 

Last spring, my count shows that there are 7 clergywomen and 86 
clergymen on 13 agencies and 39 lay women (none of whom I have any 
evidence is church employed) and 80 laymen on 13 agencies. .. .Preliminary 
inquires indicate that no clergywoman has ever served on the national 
nominating committee.... 

9. CEW's relationship with UPW was, indeed, checkered. Sometimes UPW was 
#ost helpful and other times the National Executive Committee hindered us in 
our efforts whether knowingly or unknowingly. 

10. Elizabeth Verdesi and Lillian Taylor, Our Rightful Place , p. 42. 

11. Among our trips was one to Grailville in Loveland, Ohio, where we got 
training in Saul Alinsky's theories of social change. We were really big time 
at that point! The leaders actually used CEW as a «odel for our discussions. 

12. Pat Kepler not only gave us some staffing support but she also gave us a 
theological base for our work. She usually had good political sense which she 
shared with us as we tried to get through the snarl of Presbyterian politics. 


13. This gathering was ostensibly called to address women's issues related to 
the Vocation Agency. It was instigated by Mildred Grubbs, a clergywomar 
working out of the Columbus Office related to the Vocation Agency. With 
hindsight, it would seem that she was working unilaterally in such a way as 
consciously or unconsciously to undermine CEW' s credibility and effectiveness. 

14. The list of concerns which the Steering Committee took with them when they 
confronted Don Smith (as recorded in the minutes of the January, 1973, 
•eeting) were -as follow: 

1. CEW representation on the Consulting Committee on Women Employed by 
the Church. 

2. We speak for the largest constituency. Others at the ad hoc meeting 
were representing themselves. 

3. The church structure must go through channels women have already 

4. Lack of agenda clarification of Kentucky meeting. 

5- Lack of clarity of representation of Kentucky meeting. 

6. Lack of clarity re authority of Kentucky meeting. 

7. Not representative of all women (Church educators were not invited). 

8. Illegitimate response to CEW proposal. 

9. No official action was taken on the official referral of our proposal 
by C-ll (a committee responsible for the restructuring the national 
level of the UPCUSA). 

10. No CEW representation on EEO Advisory Committee. 

11. We refuse to deal with EEO Committee on which CEW is not 

15. In April, 1973, the Vocation Agency Board acted to affirm the relationship 
it had with CEW and requested CEW to appoint five members of Consulting 
Committee. We did so, and we attended the first meeting of the Consulting 
Committee in May, 1973, at which one of the suggestions was that we have a 
church welfare program for unemployed women. This reflects how desperate the 
situation was for many church employed women at that point. 

16. I believe we made this request at the insistence of Willa Roghair, past 
co-chair of CEW, who was serving on the EEO/AAP Committee. 

17. Art Brown turned out to be one of the executives of the UPCUSA who was the 
■ost supportive to CEW 7 s causes. Before his retirement he supported the idea 
of a median income level as the base for pension payments. All ministers who 
fell beneath that eedian in their career income would receive pensions as 
though they had made the wedian income. This potentially had a great impact 
on the future incomes of many clergywomen, because we are among those who may 
not have received the aedian income during our careers. 

18. As indicated in her evaluation of the program. 

19. I have done sociological research and know what is considered to be a good 

20. Recorded in the February, 1974, CEW newsletter. 


21. We speculated in December, 1989, why this position was -filled a good six 
months after most positions at this level had been filled. 

22. As an aside, I would like to mention that at this meeting, CEW considered 
an important issue. We dealt with the concerns of employed women who were 
lesbians, and we actually asked a lesbian national staff member to join our 
Steering Committee with that particular focus. It is interesting that in the 
October, 1974, minutes of a Steering Committee meeting, there seems to be 
retrenchment indicated when making decisions about topics for newsletter 
series. (Layoffs had just occurred.): 

It was felt that the concerns which gay women and others who are 
advocates for gay rights have concerning church employment could best be 
fed into a "lifestyle" series after the series had begun rather than at 
the beginning. We also need to do some preliminary interpretative, work 
in regions on this issue. 

23. Ann's analysis was that her job, according to the Vocation Agency, was to 
find jobs for women outside the church. Dorothy Gist was to be her assistant. 
Ann set Dorothy free to find jobs for women outside the church. Ann focused 
on making the systemic changes in the church so women could get jobs in the 
church. She determined that if the nature of the church, the nature of the 
ministry and the nature of theological education were changed then women could 
get jobs within the system. (I might add, just a small task!) Ann indicated 
this to me in December, 1989, as she took notes of that period in CEW's 

24. Leon Faniel, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council, 
resigned and became the fall guy for the budget problems. He was a black 
minister who had been programmed for failure; the institutional racism was 
clearly evident. Wm. P. Thompson, Stated Clerk of the denomination, became 
Interim Executive Director of the GAMC, without going on leave from his other 
position, which was to create an impossible administrative snarl. He was left 
free to have the final word as Stated Clerk on the correctness of his own 
behavior in another position during a crucial time within the life of the 

25. Carol Ames as editor of the CEW newsletter reflected on what happened to 
support staff who were terminated: 

Finally, the editor would like to comment on the invisibility of non- 
exempt (clerical) staff in this whole process. Seventeen of us 
(including editor) have been terminated, according to official report 
(issued in Presbyterian News Service, Monday Mornino , A.D. . etc.) It 
was expected that a number might be transferred to other jobs within the 
agencies — I don't know how many that affects to date. In all these 
reports, none of our positions were listed, nor any of our names 
(though, both were given for exempt staff), although many of us also 
have contacts with numbers of people in the judicatories and church at 
large and some have worked longer for the church at the national level 
than have many of the exempt staff (a number of whom were terminated 


within a year of hiring). This also prevents us -from even knowing who 
each other are, -for support or for any joint actions, etc., we Bight 
have wished to follow. Also, the personnel guidelines were modified for 
this series of terminations, providing extra benefits for all staff 
(interview expenses, counseling, expenses for some education to improve 
qualifications, etc.): the termination pay benefits were improved for 
exempt staff only — from 3 months normal termination salary to 6 months 
in this instance — but left at one month for non-exempt staff (it is 
supposed to be easier for us to find other jobs). It occurred to me 
that since exempt salaries are usually at least twice as high as non- 
exempt that this works out to a ratio of 12 to one! 

26. Because Annette and I had been the co-chairwoman of CEW when hiring was 
done for the national staff, we had encouraged women and racial ethnic persons 
to apply for positions. When the layoffs occurred, I felt it was necessary 
for as many people as possible in the denomination to know what had gone on in 
relation to women and racial ethnic persons. I allowed New York City 
Presbytery to file a judicial case against Wm. P. Thompson, Oscar McCloud, the 
General Director of the Program Agency, and the Program Agency Board in my 
name as well as in the name of two others, including Joyce Hanson from CEW. 

It took one year for us to gc through all of the hoops. In the end, the 
General Assembly Judicial Commission found our case untimely because we should 
have done in thirty days what had taken us one year to do. It was really a 
technicality that disenfranchised us, but three of the members of the 
Commission voted for us while none voted to support the defendants in the 
case. We felt we had won a moral victory, and folks around the country did 
know that something strange had happened in the layoffs. 

27. We obtained Chapter 26 status in 1974 only to have it withdrawn a couple 
of years later because some women employed by the church were not 
Presbyterians. Chapter 28 organizations were supposed to be made up of 
Presbyterians. Since some of our secretaries came from other denominations, 
the organization was disqualified from this status! 

28. We continued to try to get foundation grants so we could be more 
independent, but we failed because there were few foundations which would give 
us funds for operating expenses. 


Chapter II 
The Relationship Between Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation 

In this chapter I wish to de-fine Liberal Feminism and Feminist 
Liberation, to show how I think they relate to each other politically and to 
indicate why I am presently attempting to stand within Feminist Liberation. 
As mentioned in the Introduction, I have been struggling -for some time with 
the relationship between Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation. I -feel as 
i-f I have lived most of my li-fe within the parameters of Liberal Feminism, the 
first 30 years of which I was not aware of my -feminist inclinations; and in 
the last couple o-f years, I have -found that analysis wanting. I -find mysel-f 
more consistently moving into the flow of Feminist Liberation, and I find the 
analysis, commitments, and strategies called for in Feminist Liberation more 
satisfying for me and more effective as I work for justice in our world. 

Schema of Comparison : After much reading of feminist theory and much 
thought about my own experience and that of other feminists, I created a 
schema of comparison between Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation. (1) I 
know that this schema is not a perfect statement of these two worldviews, but 
it has been a good beginning point for my work. I want to state from the 
outset that I am not suggesting that any program or person embodies the 
elements of either worldview completely nor should that be a goal. These 
-descriptions are used to point out the tendencies found in each stance. The 
reality is that aost feminists flow back and forth between these two 
worldviews; however, some remain consistently «ore with one stance than the 
other. Neither are these two stances entirely distinct, for there is a 
fluidity of boundaries between the two. (2) 

Liberal Feminism 

Feminist Liberation 

1. Individualism : Assume that humans 
are separate social beings who know 
their own desires and can Fulfill 
them in isolation From other 
individuals and their desires. 
Maximizing of individual autonomy 
equality, and -fulfillment is the 
goal. The focus politically is put 
on special interest groups and their 

1. Community : Affirm the necessity 
of social relationships (social web; 
to the well-being of human beings. 
Assume a dialectical relationship 
between the needs and desires of 
individuals and those of the 
community. Hove toward the 
wholeness of individuals within the 
transformed community. Acknowledge 
the interlocking of oppressions and 
the need for collaboration within 
coalitions to end oppression and to 
bring about liberation. Recognize 
that equal relations are impossible 
in an oppressive society. 

2. Reformism : Believe that the 
system can work for women and other 
oppressed persons if the correct 
formula is found. Small adjustments 
and corrections of the existing 
system can bring about the changes 
that are necessary to end oppression 
and inequality. Have little or no 
power analysis, and often look to 
those in power to participate in the 
liberation of the oppressed. Tend 
to be cautious while seeking 

2. Revolutionary Change : Use a 
hermeneutic of suspicion, especially 
in relation to the system. Are 
aware of institutional oppression 
and use a power analysis as the base 
point for liberating strategies. 
Aim toward ending the sexist, 
racist, classist, and heterosexist 
domination present in the existing 
system. Believe that the oppressed 
are liberated by struggling with 
those in power. A process filled 
with risk-taking and death-defying 
leaps which moves beyond gradualism 
and security. 

3. Rationality : The focus is on the 
■ind. Usually there is a mind-body 
dualism in which the body is seen as 
of secondary importance. 

3. Embodiment : See the body, mind 
and spirit as a gestalt. What 
persons believe and think is brought 
to its fullness in their bodies, 
sexuality, sensuality and erotic 


4. Comrounality : Attempt to discover 
the sameness among persons because 
the notion of equality is based on 
that sameness. When such commona- 
lity isn't found, then there is a 
push for assimilation. The 
political goal is social and 
political equality with white, 
middle-strata heterosexual men. 

4. Particularity ; Attempt to show 
how we are different, to respect the 
particularity of each person rather 
than to ignore and deny such dif- 
ferences, and to recognize the rich- 
ness and complexity which these 
particularities bring to the com- 
munity. The political goal is to 
value and use the lived experience 
of all persons, especially those on 
the margin, to transform the 

5. Nationalism : Focus is on life and 
politics in this country with little 
concern for or awareness of the rest 
of the world. 

5. Global Awareness : Believe that 
what happens in this country impacts 
persons around the world and vice 
versa. There is a special concern 
for the impact of the U.S. imperia- 
lism on the lives of persons 
worldwide and a profound commitment 
to peace. 

6. Pluralism : Perceive persons and 
groups as clustered isolated units 
who impact each other, usually 
negatively, in terms of competition 
for the scarce resources allotted by 
thobt in power. 

6. Interdependence : Aware that what 
happens to one person impacts every- 
one else, both positively and nega- 
tively. Persons are very much 
related and when we work together in 
right-relation to one another, to 
all earth creatures and to the earth 
itself, scarcity and the need for 
competition are reduced. The 
sharing of resources and power are 
then possible. 

7. Elitism : Puts focus of the 
political movement on women with the 
most privilege in society. The 
masses of poor women and women of 
color are left out of consideration. 

7. Harqinality : See all women as 
marginal within society, but focus 
is placed on women with the least 
privilege. Have a commitment to pay 
special attention to the experience 
of those most marginalized when 
determining strategies and 


8. Evolutionary : The attitude 
toward history is gradual and 
incremental. What happened 
in the oast was then and has 
little relation to now. Have more 
of a sense of watching history 
unfold rather than taking respon- 
sibility as agents of history. 

8. Transf ormation : The attitude 
toward history includes an under- 
standing of the past as essential 
for the work necessary to bring 
about transformation in the 
present/future. An oppositional 
worldview provides the vision and 
hope for human agency in the 
buildinQ of a new social order. 

Moving Toward Feminist Liberation : Having acknowledged that persons 
flow in and out of Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation, and that th.ese 
worldviews are intertwined, I want to make it clear again that I have a 
preference for Feminist Liberation for a number of reasons. It has often 
been said (even in my Introduction) that seeds of Feminist Liberation are 
found in Liberal Feminism, but more and more I have trouble with that imagery. 
It would seem to indicate that one moves through liberalism to liberation in 
some natural progression, but I question this view. 

In my opinion, a better image of the connection between Liberal Feminism 
and Feminist Liberation might be that of finding oneself encapsulated in a 
clay pot (liberalism), and through proper conditions cracks develop in that 
pot. We who find ourselves enveloped in liberalism (including Liberal 
Feminism) in this society must ask what are the conditions that make the pot 
develop cracks, and even more important, what are the factors which would 
enable us to look through the cracks toward Feminist Liberation And then to 
embrace it. 

I would propose that cracks develop in the pot because of the internal 
contradictions found in liberalism itself. A good illustration of such a 
contradiction would be white, middle-strata Liberal Feminists working hard on 


behalf of Equal Rights for women while somehow ignoring the racist and 

classist assumptions and strategies used to win such a battle. (3) As a 

result, their fight for Equal Rights often fails to include the concerns or 

insights of poor and racial ethnic women. When we white, middle-strata 

feminists are wise enough to listen to women of color and poor sisters and 

brave enough to challenge one another, then the crack can be identified and 

critiqued. Such a challenge is reflected in a speech given by Barbara Smith 

at the NWSA conference in May, 1979: 

The reason racism is a feminist issue is easily explained by the 
inherent definition of feminism. Feminism is the political theory' and 
practice to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor 
women, physically challenged women, lesbians, old women, as well as 
white economically privileged heterosexual women. Anything less than 
this is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement. (4) 

Factors Blocking the Movement : Moving from the confined pot of liberalism to 

the expansive arena of liberation is not a foregone conclusion. Most white, 

middle-strata U.S. citizens do not choose to take advantage of the cracks to 

see and embrace the new reality even if they discern the cracks. It is much 

like the seeds found in pots in Egyptian tombs that do not germinate for 

thousands of years because the conditions are not propitious for their growth, 

In my native desert home, there are seeds which may not germinate for years 

until the right conditions of water, sun, and sand occur. So it is in our 

personal lives and in our communities, -for there are social, political and 

economic forces that help to determine our readiness to find and nurture the 

seeds of liberation. As one of ay colleagues said, "Sure you can have seeds 

of liberation in liberalism, but there is no assurance that those seeds will 

ever blossom. They could remain dormant forever. Also we aust reaember that 

the seeds must die in order to come to a new reality." 


So long as we are in the pot of liberalism and do not recognize the 
cracks or the realities outside of that pot, we remain unchanged in any 
significant way. Robert Terry(5) uses a diagram in his study o-f racism which 
I have modified to be used in my work about liberalism and liberation. The 
modified diaqram is found below: 





status quo 



In this schema there is no problem in finding ways to be actively unjust in 
this society; they are multitudinous, and most of us can also identify what 
would be real acts of active justice. Although many of us, especially 
liberals, do not wish to be actively unjust, we are afraid of the risks 
involved in being actively implicated in being about acts of liberation 
necessary to create a just society. As a result, we become passive in our 
justice-doing, and therein lies the problem because no such possibility 
exists. One cannot be passive and bring about change. The result is that we 
end up supporting the status quo, which means we are being passively unjust 
because the society in which we live is unjust. To leave things as they are 
is to be involved in doing injustice. As Sartre once wrote, "Not to decide is 
to decide. "(6) To leave things as they are is to support the evil in our 
society. The gravity pull is down from active liberation to the status 
quo. (7> 

Many Liberal Feminists and their communities have the right mindset in 
terms of not wanting injustice, but their aotivation, courage, and insight are 
not great enough to overcome the gravitational pull toward the status quo. 


That is what is so painful about being caught in Liberal Feminism. One's 
vision may be right on in many respects, but one is unable to move 
intentionally and effectively toward that vision. Many Liberal Feminists 
perceive the cracks in liberalism, but do not move through those cracks to 
embrace new life. This inability (or choice) often results in physical, 
spiritual and emotional illnesses, which are initially often experienced as 
burnout. (8) This situation is caused by a desire for safety and the fear of 
risk which in turn results in denial, distortion of values, dishonesty and 



I also believe that liberals (including feminists) are more apt to get 
caught up in the desire to have all the parts of their lives, theories, and 
strategies to fit much like a person who tries to get all of the pieces of a 
jigsaw puzzle to fit, rather than being free to take a number of pieces out in 
order to see the picture from a different perspective. Over the years it has 
been a surprise to me to discover that liberals can display an ideological 
rigidity which surpasses that of so called conservatives. (9) As a result, 
they are often unable to flow in a liberating and empowering manner. They get 
stuck in the encapsulated thinking of the pot of liberalism. 

Factors Facilitating the Hovement : Some of those factors that, 
depending upon what we Are able to make of them, might contribute to our being 
open to looking through the cracks rather than hurrying to »end the* would be 
travel outside of the U.S. in the Third World, the decision to do civil 
disobedience, the recovery process in relation to addiction, facing 
potentially death-rendering circumstances, accepting the reality of being or 
choosing to be a lesbian, facing some social disgrace, etc. Any of these 
experiences might lead to the jarring of one's categories and/or to cognitive 


and emotional dissonance. Being in such a state can open one to the risks and 

challenges o-f entering the arena of Feminist Liberation. I choose to call 

this process o-f perceiving and entering that arena o-f liberation "passionate 


However, as I have mentioned, moving into the sphere of liberation is 

not automatic. It involves a death o-f much we have known as normal in the 

past. (10) If we force our way out through the cracks of the pot, it will no 

longer exist in our lives. We then can no longer be satisfied with the 

criteria, analysis and commitments associated with Liberal Feminism. Chrystos 

vividly describes this process of breaking into a new reality in her poem, 

"Give Me Back," as reflected in these lines: 

mal mama spirit stole my bones put them in her burying jug 

sealed me up in wax & ashes 

I crack out 

I arrange my bones in their naming places 

I take what I want 

shaking my sacred hair dancing out taboo 

I mark out the space I am 

with knives(ll) 

Once we have pushed our way out of the pot, then we are free to discover 
the breadth and depth of Feminist Liberation. I think that we will discover 
that a commitment to Feminist Liberation is one of the best ways to get us out 
of the oppressive cycle which I described earlier. We can move out beyond the 
failure of liberals to challenge significantly the way things are. -4«Je can 
begin to define new criteria, analyses, and commitments to provide us -guidance 
for our passionate living. 

The greatest danger is that Liberal Feminism often eclipses Feminist 
Liberation, «uch the way that the «oon can eclipse the sun, so that it is most 
difficult to capture a vision of Feminist Liberation. It seems as if it is 


only when we are knocked out of our usual line of vision, as a billiard ball 
is ricocheted around a billiard table that we can clearly envision Feminist 
Liberation. Once again, it is jarring experiences which turn our universe 
upside down, thereby allowing us a new perspective. The embracing o-f Feminist 
Liberation can be experienced as a form o-f recovery, spiritual awakening, or 
political conversion, which are not mutually exclusive. 

Having said all this, I want to say again that although I may state my 
case strongly above, I am not saying that Liberal Feminism has no merit. 
Liberal -feminists have been, at times, the only ones who have pointed to a 
liberating vision or taken action in an oppressive situation. As I mentioned 
before, there are glimmers of light within Liberal Feminism, but they tend to 
reflect movement toward Feminist Liberation. I recognize the danger that I 
may romanticize Feminist Liberation; however, within the context of the U.S., 
I believe the greater danger is that we will fail to challenge the liberal 
ideology which permeates and distorts much of our feminist analysis and 

My goal in this thesis is to explore further the relation of Liberal 
Feminism to Feminist Liberation, to see how this connection is or is not 
reflected in the lives of white, middle-strata clergywomen, and to consider 
what difference it would make if we chose to push out through the cracks of 
Liberal Feminism to embrace Feminist Liberation, to embrace passionate living. 




1. For this work I am indebted to the thoughts and writing of Alison Jagqer, 
Katie Cannon, Bell Hooks, Carter Heyward and Charlotte Bunch. 

2. There is a close relationship among some o-F the elements I have used in the 
schema, such as Reformism — Revolutionary Change and Evolution — Transformation. 
However, I have tried to make it clear in my descriptions and in my use of 
them that there are distinctions between these elements. 

3. One of the most helpful books for my understanding of this contradiction 
was Daughters of Jefferson, Daughters of Bootblacks by Barbara Andolsen. It 
was in this book that I was able to see tne history of the white feminist 
movement as it developed in the 19th Century and continued to manifest the 
same contradictions in the 20th Century. 

4. Cherrie Moranga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds. , This Bridge Called tiy Back: 
Writings by Radical Women of Color (Watertown: Persephone Press, 1981), p. 61. 

5. The Cornwall Collective, Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Feminist 
Alternatives in Theological Education (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1980), p. 

6. I saw this on a poster; therefore I have no idea in what context it was 
said or written. 

7. Ronald Harstin has stated this clearly when he says, "The faith that does 
not remake society is the faith that confirms the present social arrangement." 

Ronald Marstin, Beyond Our Tribal Gods: The Haturinq of Faith (Maryknoll: 
Orbis Books, 1982), p. 86. 

8. I want to acknowledge that liberationists can experience burnout too, but 
there is a reduced probability when they are working within the context of 
community. The demands of liberation are shared, and the potential for 
support are increased. 

9. It was at a lecture given by Virginia ttollenkott at the Evangelical Women's 
Caucus in July, 1988, that I began to see the relationship between the 
thinking of conservatives and liberals. As hollenkott critiqued the thinking 
of fundamentalists, I realized how similar it was to the thinking of liberals. 
This lecture was the "aha" experience for me which helped me understand why I 
had such a problem with liberalism. It helped me to crystalize my questions 
which are central to this thesis. 

10. Julia Esquivel of Guatemala reflects the painful and hopeful process of 
change in these words: 

Those of us who, through our experience, have come to understand the 
need for real and profound change in the Central American social and 
political structures, and who want to commit our whole lives to this 
task, have undergone severe, painful and often profound changes in our 


own lives and personalities. We have lived through experiences of death 
and resurrection, like that of the Pascal mystery. All death is 
painful. It is separation. It is rupture. It is being buried. On the 
other hand, resurrection is life; it is hope. 

Julia Esquivel, "Christian Women and the Struggle for Justice in Central 
America," in Diana L. Eck and Devaki Jain, eds., Speaking of Faith 
(Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1987), p. 22. 

11. Cherrie iioranga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called Hv Back , p. 


Chapter III 

The Journey Toward Feminist Liberation: 
The Lives and Work of Three Feminist Liberation Theologians 

Introduction ; When I First contemplated writing a thesis on the topic 
of Feminist Liberation, I knew that it would be very important For ne to look 
not only to my own experience and to that of other white, middle-strata 
Presbyterian Feminist clergywomen but also to those women who struggle to live 
out Feminist Liberation as well as reflecting it in their developing and. 
writing of Feminist Liberation Theology. After much thought I chose three 
women whose lives and work I wished to study in order to understand the 
journey one takes toward Feminist Liberation. I chose three women whom I 
respect and whose books and public presentations I've had a chance to engage 
over a period of 10-15 years: Carter Heyward, Letty Russell, and Dorothee 
Soelle. I am honored that each one gave me the support of her time, energy 
and thought in granting me an extended interview. 

I developed a schedule of questions which I used in my face-to-face 
interviews with Carter Heyward and Letty Russell and in interviewing Dorothee 
Soelle by mail (she sent me a tape of her responses). Having each of these 
women respond to these questions was a profound experience in itself, 
especially when I was able to interact face-to-face with them, as with Heyward 
and Russell. The questions which I asked were: 

1. Describe yourself right now in terms of where you are personally and 
interpersonally. What are your priorities? What are your burning 
issues? Where do you spend your energy? 

2. What are the basic norms of your ethics? Have they changed much over 
the years? If so, in what ways have they changed? 

3. Have there been significant shifts (shifts in paradigm or worldview) 
in your adult life, especially in the last 10-15 years? If so, describe 
these shifts and the impact they have had on you. 

4. In considering the shift between Liberal Feminism and Feminist 
Liberation, can you describe your journey? What were/are the factors 
which compel and -facilitate your movement in the direction of Feminist 
Liberation? What were/are the blocks? What fears stood/stand in your 
way? What are the risks involved? 

5. What are the early influences which would point to your becoming a 
Feminist Liberationist? What seeds were planted? 

6. Have you participated in civil disobedience? If so, what were the 
factors which influenced you to do so? How did you understand your 
action? What impact did this experience have on your life in general? 
If not, what circumstances, if any, would compel you to participate in 
civil disobedience? 

7. When you envision yourself 20 years from now, who do you see? How 
would you. have liked to have spent your time and energy? What personal 
and societal issues will have received most of your attention? 

8. Audre Lorde sees the erotic as power, a source of creation and 
liberation. Do you agree? If so, in what ways in your life has the 
erotic/sensual/sexual been experienced as a source of 
creation/liberation/power? Are there ways in which the erotic, 
spiritual, and vocational have been linked in such a way in your life as 
to be empowering to you and others? Where have they been in conflict? 

Some of these questions were the same as those I asked the clergywomen' s group 
to respond to, while others were different. (The clergywomen - ' s responses are 
the base for Chapter IV.) I formulated these questions with the hope of 
eliciting responses that would help me to better understand Feminist 
Liberation as reflected in the lives of these three women as well as making 
clearer to me what was involved in the journey toward Feminist Liberation. 

In this chapter I propose to use the materials I gathered in my 
interviews with the three theologians, along with selections from their 
writings, to indicate how the elements of Feminist Liberation are reflected in 
their lives and work. In this way, I hope to flesh out what I mean by 
Feminist Liberation. I will close the chapter in reporting the self- 
perception of each theologian of how she has journeyed into the arena of 
Feminist Liberation. 


In Chapter II I described the elements of Feminist Liberation as 
distinct -from Liberal Feminism, realising that there is no sharp demarcation 
between the two and that people usually don't experience leaping from one to 
another, leaving the other behind. In most cases people tend to move back and 
•forth between the two worldviews, which include priorities, values, strategies 
and commitments. Without programming it to be so, I discovered that the 
white, middle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen in my group <as will be 
described in Chapter IV) re-flect, in most ways, the elements o-f Liberal 
Feminism. In this chapter, through describing the lives and work o-f three 
Feminist Liberation theologians, I wish to raise some possibilities -for 
theoloqic&l movement that might inform and stretch the faith and work of all 
white, middle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen committed to justice for all 

The Elements of Feminist Liberation as Reflected by Three Feminist 

Liberation Theologians : I will restate each of the elements of Feminist 

Liberation and share how the three Feminist Liberation theologians have helped 

me better to understand the implications of each element. There is some 

overlap among these elements; therefore I will attempt to avoid repetition as 

I describe them. 

Community : Affirm the necessity of social 
relationships (social web) to the well-being 
of human beings. Assume a dialectical 
relationship between the needs and desires 
of individuals and those of the community. 
Move toward Ihe wholeness of individuals 
within the transformed community. Acknow- 
ledge the interlocking of oppressions and 
the need for collaboration within coali- 
tions to end oppression *nd to bring about 
liberation. Recognize that equal relations 
are impossible in an oppressive society. 



I chose to put "community" as ay -first element of Feminist Liberation 

because one o-f the most pro-found manifestations o-f Liberal Feminism is its 

individualism. Our society is built on the philosophy o-f the Enlightenment, 

and has taken individualism about as -far as it can go. Heyward reflects souse 

of the problems with the individualism found in Liberal Feminism and how it 

would contrast to a more radical feminism: 

Feminism is liberal in that it is — and must be — a movement for equal 
rights in a society founded upon ideals of liberty and justice for all 
individuals, regardless of how far short it may fall in terms of racial, 
sexual, or economic inequity. Feminism is radical in that it threatens 
to bring down the sexual class system that provides the underpinning of 
social structures which have little to do with the rights and abilities 
of individuals, and everything to do with segregation by sex, race, and 
class. (1) 

Another critique of the individualism of Liberal Feminism is found in 

Soelle's response to my interview question regarding Liberal Feminism 

It (Liberal Feminism) orients itself only in regard to one's own career, 
so in a way it never transcends the basic presumption of liberalism, 
which is individualism. It doesn't understand our history as our 
collective history. It doesn't understand our roots as collective 
roots. It doesn't understand our salvation and hope as our collective 
salvation and hope for the whole of God's people in the world. It's 
like in the question of peace saying it doesn't matter whether we have 
these weapons. "We will never use them for war. We just want them to 
deter others." That is the liberal position, which doesn't include 
those who starve to death with the help of these weapons. The concept 
of justice in liberalism, and liberal feminism as well, is more or less 
absent. Justice is seen as only a equal chance between men and women, 
which is a very important goal for society, but it is not enough. It 
leaves out the economic and the political, in a way, and this collective 
hope I do share with other people. 

Soelle's comments remind me that the individualism of Liberal Feminism not 

only makes us unaware of the hurt and oppression of large groups in our 

society and world but also it leaves us bereft of the hope which comes from 

experiencing oneself as part of a communal entity. In a community we no 

longer have to bring about change by ourselves. As Heyward said in my 


interview with her, "One of the most radical things I have discovered in 
recent years is that I am not alone." 

Feminist Liberation affirms this declaration that Heyward has made, for 
the social web of relationships is central to the Feminist Liberation 
worldview. When we dare to embrace Feminist Liberation, we discover that we 
are not — nor can we be — isolated beings who go about our living with no 
awareness of or involvement in relationships with others. Certainly the 
competitiveness and autonomy emphasized in our society often disabuse us of 
the reality of the communality of our living. We see the effects of this 
extreme individualism in much of the personal, interpersonal, and societal 
illness found in our communities, if they can be called such. But Feminist 
Liberation calls us to a new experience of life — to a web of life-sustaining 
relationships. Heyward speaks of these relationships poignantly when she 
describes how her recovery process from alcoholism has led her to see how she 
is connected even to those with whom she would have thought she had little in 

There is something very "leveling" about coming to terms with an 
addiction and realizing that, among the things that most of us have in 
common, is a capacity to be vulnerable to addiction. I can better 
understand how Black and Hispanic kids in East Harlem die in the street 
of drugs, even though I don't have the same immediate, daily kinds of 
pain that most kids of color in this culture have. There are still 
those pains that get to all of us, and pain is pain at a certain level. 
I can see why people shoot up and die. That realization has been both 
humbling and empowering — it helps me to understand another deeper 
dimension of the struggle we all share. (2) 

Such a sense of connectedness pushes us not only to identify with the pain and 

oppression of others but also propels us to do something together to change 

our communal situation. 


What we cannot understand or do alone, we can sometimes accomplish with 

others when we have a sense of solidarity and community with them. It is to 

our community that we remain accountable. It is also our community which acts 

as a corrective to our values, priorities and strategies, for without a 

community our individual truth or wisdom is more apt to become absolutized. 

Sometimes we are fortunate to have large numbers with whom to move toward 

justice, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement of the 

1960s, but other times it is a very small group which calls upon the rest of 

us to embody the communal nature of our lives. Russell points to how four 

women and their children in Bolivia came together to make a powerful witness 

for liberation: 

...The day after Christmas, 1977, they took their fourteen children to 
the archbishop's headquarters and began a hunger strike. They were 
demanding the return and reinstatement of their husbands, who had been 
fired from the mines and deported, leaving their families destitute. 
They were also supporting the demand of the churches and other groups 
for general amnesty for twenty thousand Bolivian political exiles. 
Although all strikes were against the law, the women decided to 
underline the Christmas message of justice and peace on earth with their 
own prophetic sign. Other Christians offered to substitute for the 
children so they would not die o-f hunger. The mothers allowed the 
children to be fed, although they kept them with them and pointed out 
that the children would soon die in the mines in any case. 

The government finally arrested the women and those who had joined 
the hunger strike in other cities around the country. But an 
international ecumenical commission had arrived to investigate human 
rights violations and the archbishop of LaPaz also took action. He 
declared that all the churches in the city would be closed in protest. 
After twenty-one days of hunger strike the negotiations led to the 
proclamation of general amnesty and to the return of the exiles. (3) 

Indeed, a small group of women came together as community in order to call 

others to their communal responsibility and hope. It is in acts of 

transforming our community that we also move toward wholeness in our 

individual lives; it becomes an experience of coming home. 

Another reason why we «ust work together in a communal manner is because 


of the very interconnected nature of the institutional structures and 
oppressions which we encounter. Until we see the ways in which those 
oppressions are linked with and compounded by one another, we will not know 
how to counteract there effectively. Many of our relationships are based on 
the domination of one group/class/race/gender over another, and these power 
relationships are not just registered in our personal interaction but in the 
very structures of our society. When one experiences being on the underside 
of more than one of the power relationships, the impact is greater than simply 
a doubling or tripling effect; it has an exponential impact. Rosemary Ruether 
calls this "multilayered oppression. " (4) Racism, sexism, heterosexism, 
classism, etc., are intertwined with one another so it is impossible to debate 
which is greater or first; all are oppressive and all Bust be addressed if 
oppression is to be ended. There is no hierarchy of oppression. Heyward 
describes this reality well when she writes: 

No structure of alienation in our life together can be uprooted 
unless we dig into the foundations of the separatism in which all our 
lives are fastened. Some people will insist that racism is, in fact, 
the foundation of our alienation; others will contend that sexism or 
capitalism is basic to everything else. I am persuaded that the problem 
is the dynamic interaction among the various structures, each of which 
can only be trivialized when studied as an autonomous phenomenon apart 
from the others. 

To dig into the foundations of why we live in such fear and 
antipathy, scorn and apathy, in relation to most members of our global 
family is to make the connections among our diverse experiences of 
injustice and our various movements for justice. ... (5) 

Such a statement leads us to ask how we are to address such a tangle of pain 
and suffering. 

Because no one of us alone has the insight into the nature of oppression 
due to its entangled, «essy nature, Feminist Liberation pushes us once «ore to 
seek a communal response. We who experience oppression «ust be in 


communication with each other because we roust work together in eliminating 

oppression in all its subtle and blatant manifestations. However, we soon 

discover that the very nature of oppression makes our coalitions and alliances 

across various political barriers difficult. For example, white women who 

wish to bring all women together to address sexism often ignore the particular 

experiences of women of color and poor women. Most especially, we tend to 

disregard the role we play in benefiting from and propagating the racism and 

classism that hurt the very women with whom we would claim solidarity. This 

complex reality is seen in the efforts which the seven women, including . 

Heyward, of the Mudflower Collective made to overcome those barriers. 

As a broken body of women, we confess the pathos of our very concrete 
historical limits. Like all people, we continue to be shaped by 
sociopolitical factors and dynamics. . .there is (also) much sadness and 
much evil into which we have come, and to which we live despite our good 
will. White supremacy, male gender superiority, economic exploitations, 
homophobia, anti-Semitism — these forces constitute the destruction of 
human well-t)eing. These are evil forces which mar our common life and 
our possibilities of community. We are persuaded that dialogue — a 
sharing of our lives that seeks justice-based relation — is the only 
means we have to transform, even in the smallest ways, the history that 
renders us separate and unequal. (6) 

Even in its members" pain of separation and alienation, The Mud-flower 

Collective senses how important coalitions are across these lines. We see 

this hope for communality reflected in Russell's dream of partnership, which 

gives us some new perspective on coalition building, as well as interpersonal 


Taking into consideration that different qualities are «ore 
important than others at different times and in different types of 
partnerships, we can still identify the basic qualities considered 
important for partnerships by «eans of continued reflection and 
discussions of our own experiences and expectations. They would seem to 
include at least: (1) commitment that involves responsibility, 
vulnerability, equality, and trust among persons or groups who share a 
variety of gifts or resources; (2) common struggle and work involving 
risk, continuing growth, and hopefulness in aoving toward a goal or 
purpose transcending the group itself; (3) contextuality in interacting 


within a wider community o-f persons, social structures, values and 
belie-fs that may provide support, correctives or negative -feedback. 
There is never complete equality in a dynamic relationship, but a 
pattern of equal regard and mutual acceptance among partners is 
essential.... Partnership may be described as a new focus of 
relationship in which there is continuing commitment and common struggle 
in interacting within a wider community context . (7) (All italics are 
the author's.) 

Again, it is clear that Feminist Liberation theologians have a strong sense of 

the communal, rather than individualism, as central to living passionately. 

Indeed, we are not alone! We dare not stand alone! 

Revolutionary Change : Use a hermeneutic 
of suspicion, especially in relation to 
the system. Are aware of institutional 
oppression and use a power analysis as 
the base point for liberating strategies. 
Aim toward ending the sexist, racist, 
classist, and heterosexist domination 
present in the existing system. Believe 
that the oppressed are liberated by 
struggling with those in power. A process 
filled with risk-taking and death-defy- 
ing leaps which moves beyond gradualism 
and security. 

An assumption of this thesis is that most white, middle-strata liberal 

Presbyterian clergywomen lack a hermeneutic of suspicion (8) of the prevailing 

social/ecclesial system. Russell, Soelle and Heyward share a clear 

hermeneutic of suspicion, which helps them move away -from reformist tendencies 

and toward a commitment to revolutionary change. (9) Soelle shows her 

suspicion when she considers the governmental powers of the United States and 

Western Europe, especially those of her own country, West Germany, and their 

decisions around nuclear war. Her poem, "To Crucify," is one of her «ost 

profound statements of suspicion as she questions the real meaning of the 

language used by so many governments and their representatives around the 


To crucify 


to execute — to dispose of — to get out of the way — 

to put in solitary — to leave an electric light on day 
and night — 

to sentence -for li-fe--to order special treatment 
to crucify 

to do away with — to destroy — to liquidate — 

to wipe out — to purge — to expel — 

to straighten out — to stream line — to urban renew — to 
evict — 

to threaten eviction — to do someone in 
to crucify 

to provide no place to live — to keep from learning a 
trade — 

to put in an institution — to kick out of a resort — 

to be offended in our aesthetic sensibilities — 

to be unable to bear the sight of — 

to not want our neighborhood ruined — to gas 
to crucify 

to send to a state welfare home — to turn into a 
criminal — 

to encourage dependency — to addict — 

to foster neurosis — to intimidate — 

to stupefy — to pull the rug from undei 

to cow — to brutalize 
to crucify 

to forget — to conceal — to not want to make a fuss 
about — 

to repress — to not have known about it — 

to consider it an isolated case — 

to call it inevitable — to let it happen 
to crucify 

to bump off — to silence for good — 

to bind and gag — 

to deprive of language — 

to make deaf and dumb — to plug the ears — 

to put off with false hopes — to blindfold — to gouge out 
eyes — 

to turn into consumers — 

to blind — to stifle 
to crucify 

to prepare the final solution — 

to make conform to the values of society — 

to adjust — to execute — (10) 

She fools us, for we initially believe that we are suspicious of "them", 
but then we becoee aware that "we" are to be suspected as well, individually 
and corporately. It shows how insidious is the spiral of institutional 
violence that operates in our society and invades our lives. 


We must be suspicious of the institutional systems and their violence, 
which are all around us, and we roust also realize that we have internalized 
much o-f what most feminists abhor in those oppressive structures. We are both 
hurt by those structures, and we hurt others through our participation in the 
very same structures. For example, we may -find ourselves resisting the 
leadership o-f other women within work structures, we may continue our 
individualistic ways which deny the importance o-f communal efforts to 
transform our society, or we may actually ignore the ways in which race and 
class privilege benefit our lives thereby keeping in place the oppression 
which results. Institutional violence is insidious and invades our lives both 
in what is done to us and what we do to others. We want to believe that small 
changes will bring about the significant transformation we seek, but these 
small adjustments usually only lead us back to the status quo. If we relax 
our hermeneutic of suspicion, we will be crucified, and we will crucify! The 
reality of these oppressive structures must be named and then destroyed. 
Sometimes, little children can call us to revolutionary change because often 
they "know 1 the evil and obscenity of oppressive relationships. In my 
interview with Heyward, she tells of her childhood suspicions and questions 
about racism: 

I had good training from »y parents about racism in the South. 
They weren't naming it that, but I Mas taught that white people aren't 
superior to black people. What was going on between the races was 
wrong, was not the will of God. I remember ay parents saying, again and 
again, that it ought not be this way. I think where they felt powerless 
(and I can understand this) was in knowing what to do about it. They 
knew it wasn't the will of God, but I don't think they thought anyone 
could change it, least of all themselves. Therefore they didn't teach 
me an ethic of activism or of doing something to change the situation. 
They just said it was wrong. It shouldn't be this way, but it was. I 
didn't accept that. 

Before my father died, on the last day of his life, he was 
laughing (I had just coie home from Nicaragua) about my always going off 
to places like Nicaragua. He always accused me of "identifying with the 

underdog." That was his line since my childhood. "If you could be 
Black, you'd be Black, if you could be a Nicaraguan, you'd be a 
Nicaraguan." He also thought that was why I was a lesbian — identifying 
with those "poor homosexuals." But he began to get it, at the end of 
his life. He began to understand that there was more than that going 
on, that I had been a restless child about racism, for example, because 
I didn't like it. I didn't see why if it was wrong and if it wasn't 
God's will, we couldn't change it. He said to me on the last day of his 
life, "Since you were four years old, you've said, 'Well, we don't have 
to accept it.'" 

It is this kind of suspicion which we still see so deeply ingrained in 

Heyward's life and ministry. 

Through such abiding suspicion, one is open to understanding the 

dynamics of power that exist in our society and that most frequently are 

expressed in the differentials of power based on race, class, gender, sexual 

preference, ages etc. When we do not accept the existence of these power 

differentials, we believe that oppression is merely an issue of individual 

treatment of one person by another. Heyward reflects on this tendency when 

she describes how liberals perceive power: 

...a liberal is someone who doesn't have any power analysis — they will 
say, "Power, Oh we all have power." "Power is a charismatic gift from 
God or something like that." "The bishop of the diocese has no more 
power than the man on the street, and God loves us all." "Power is what 
you make of it." It is the power of positive thinking sort of stuff. 
Whereas those who understand the dynamics of liberation know the 
problems of living in the world, they know that alienation affects how 
we live our lives constantly, 24 hours a day, and that we are constantly 
participating in the using and abusing of and being used and abused by 
power. (11) 

Such suspicion and awareness and the resulting commitments lead Feminist 

Liberationists toward a desire for revolutionary change. Institutional 

structures will not just voluntarily collapse, although sometimes they do 

implode due to their own corruptibility. However, we »ust remember how strong 

are the forces that keep these structures in place. Such oppressive 


structures usually begin to crumble only when they are challenged -forcefully 
by those who do not assume that small adjustments and corrections will bring 
about significant systemic change, even over time; and when they do not depend 
on those in power to help undermine the structures from which they benefit in 
obvious ways. The reality, according to Feminist Liberation, is that we will 
find liberation only when the most oppressed (I will say «ore about this on 
the section on marginality) identify what is needed for liberation to occur 
and then lead the struggle toward that end. 

From the Feminist Liberation perspective. La Lucha is ever with us.. 
This requires that we take risks, whether drastically changing our worldviews, 
threatening our economic well-being, and/or risking our lives. In each of the 
three theologians'" lives, we see the kinds of risks which they chose to take, 
whether it was Soelle's deciding to do Civil Disobedience in the search for 
peace even though there was little basis in custom for doing such a thing in 
her country, Heyward's coming out as a lesbian priest only a few years after 
her struggle for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church and before 
she had tenure at Episcopal Divinity School, or Russell's leaving behind much 
of what she took for granted as the norm for her life in order to do ministry 
in East Harlem. In Inheriting Our Mothers" Gardens , Russell writes of her 
experience of moving from her grandmother's garden, in which her grandfather 
was an associate of John D. Rockefeller, to a new garden in East Harlem: 

Although not a reality in «y grandmother's life, the tenement with 
its occasional scruffy tree became the reality of ey life for the next 
seventeen years. The only gardens in East Harlem had to be dug out of 
several feet of garbage and debris in a vacant lot as an annual church 
project. My community was not some romantic "clan of the cave bear" but 
ten thousand Black and Hispanic women, children and men who struggled to 
sustain life in a city housing project where «ore than one third of the 
population was forced to live on welfare. 

I ministered with a group of women and sen who taught me about 
their own mothers' gardens and grew to reject «uch of «y own parental 



gardens, yet to reclaim the power of God's liberating word -for those who 
are struggling to be free. Bible study, preaching, and sacraments came 
alive as participation in -freedom schools and civil rights 
demonstrations taught me -firsthand what Mary's song about the mighty 
being cast down and the lowly being lifted up was all about (Luke 1:52). 

If we embrace Feminist Liberation, we find ourselves called upon to take such 

risks not just now and then, but as a way of life. We will be aware of ways 

in which our lives must change in order for us to collaborate in bringing 

about the revolution! This will not occur overnight; therefore we must learn 

to keep on keeping on under the most difficult of circumstances. 

Embodiment : See the body, mind and 
spirit as a gestalt. What persons 
believe and think is brought to its 
fullness in their bodies, sexuality, 
sensuality and erotic nature. 

One of the hallmarks of Feminist Liberation is embodiment as opposed to 

the heavy emphasis placed on disembodied rationality in all liberalism. The 

theological and social devaluing of the body in our society has been profound 

and has led to the rejection and renunciation of the sexual, sensual, and 

erotic. This is a profound contradiction within Christianity because at its 

center is the enfleshment of God in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. This 

negative thinking about the body has been particularly significant in the 

lives of women because, traditionally, women have been associated with their 

bodies while men have been identified with their Binds. Such dualistic 

thinking has reinforced, and sometimes created, the aisogyny so prevalent in 

our society. It has been promulgated that the rational and moral *ale must 

control and dominate the embodied and immoral woman for her own good and the 

good of society. Heyward shows to what extremes this dualistic thinking can 

take us in our advanced capitalist society: 

In this realm of greed and violence, more and bigger is best. We 


have it or we don't. It's natural to want it — tor everyone to want 
wealth, for small countries to want bombs, and -for women to want 
penises. In the moral ethos o-f the dominant social order, it is assumed 
that such power as capital, explosives, and rape can be used for either 
good or ill, depending upon the purposes and judgment o-f those 
exercising it. 

In this situation, no action is, in and of itself, evil — except 
that which challenges the established order of alienated power 
relations: So, for instance, while hunger may be a problem, communism, 
which threatens the individual white male's autonomy and his rights to 
private ownership, is evil. While wife-battering may be too bad, gay 
sex, which threatens the established order of male control of female 
sexuality, is evil. While incest may be a shame, lesbian mothers embody 
the forces of evil which threaten to bring down the entire sacred canopy 
of alienated power. (13) 

Heyward, in a compelling way, is able to show how our notions of the body, 

sexuality, sensuality, and eroticism have a profound impact on how we live our 

lives in the world. Distortions in one arena produce perversions in others, 

however minute or global. 

One of the other results of being focused in the rational is that we 

lose the passionate base of our lives. We are truly dead from the neck down, 

and for this reason cannot think well or honestly. We experience little or 

nothing in the way of feelings. We are like "autonotoms" . Feminist 

Liberation challenges us to move beyond our protective and sterile cocoons 

into full, vital, joyous and passionate living. Such dynamic energy will 

invade all of our lives; Soelle paints a picture of how her passion is 

embodied in all that she does: 

I am in an erotic position in so far as I am a writer, a teacher, an 
educator and struggler, and there are many, many people around me, many 
young people to whom I am sometimes a mother, a teacher, an instructor 
or someone who leads part of the struggle. All of these relationships 
are, as well, filled with tenderness «md vulnerability on both sides, 
and I wish to keep open this window of vulnerability, to use this 
militaristic expression. The militarists want to close down the window 
of vulnerability. When I first heard that expression, I was so shocked 
because it was very clear to me that my whole being, my very skin is a 
window of vulnerability, and I need touching, and I need air and 
moisture, and I need love, love making. And to close down this window 
is a terrible image for closing down, closing in life itself and killing 


us, killing our countries and our souls. Staying vulnerable means being 
able to resist and to keep on with the struggle -for the realm of 
God. (14) 

Soelle sees passionate living as related to our commitments to liberation and 

the doing of justice. We cannot be disembodied and dispassionate justice 

doers. "Truly God works in and with the erotic, sensual, and sexual power and 

Hakes us experience those powers as God's power, as creation and 

liberation. ■ (15) We as clergywomen are called to passionate living. We find 

ourselves struggling with how to embody our commitments, how to express the 

erotic in our strategies, and how to be joyous persons with our bodies, minds 

and spirits all in gear and at their -full potential. 

Russell sees a direct relationship between her experience o-f the erotic 

and her work. She sees her lite as a gestalt and reflects the passionate 

connectedness of her life: has been one of the blessings of my life that many have not had — 
that the erotic, the spiritual, the vocational, everything for me has 
always been linked. ... Both as a pastor and as a theologian, there hasn't 
been any division between my personal and public work. All the things I 
have always done in my life have been integrated together, and I think 
that is why I have really enjoyed them... When my mother came, we had to 
add a room so we added a study. It is clear that I like to study. My 
life isn't divided up... it (the study) symbolises the integration of my 
work, that is, I work at home, but I also work other places. (16) 

She goes further in describing how for her one of the most erotic aspects to 

her life is her teaching: 

...She (Audre Lorde) talks about it (the erotic) as the way one's life 
is when one is really enjoying life, one has a sense of power and well- 
being. I certainly think what she describes is exactly so, and I know I 
experience that the most when I am teaching. ... I die a thousand deaths every 
time I prepare a lecture and give a lecture.... I am always sure that it isn't 
going to go right. But never the less, in giving. .. .the lecture, people's 
■aha" experience and my "aha" experience in working with people is for me an 
erotic experience in the sense of well-being and empowerment. ... (17) 


I am profoundly moved by my three sisters as they endeavor to express 
and live out a life that is passionately whole and that embodies the power of 
God. They call the rest of us to such a commitment, to incarnating the Holy. 
Feminist Liberation does not see the issue of embodiment as a side issue to 
the development of theology or the doing of justice but as central to those 
efforts. Heyward shows how all-encompassing is this issue when she discusses 
what it would involve to heal our corporate body, an essential aspect of 
moving toward embodiment: 

...healing is a radically mutual adventure, not a one-way process. 
Our power in mutual relation moves among us, touching us physically. 
She also touches us in our souls, in which we know most profoundly our 
connectedness with one another and other earth creatures. To touch and 
be touched, physically and soulfully, is to participate in healing not 
only others but also ourselves.... 

Healing does not occur in a vacuum. Like all relational acts, it 
is political, reflecting our use and abuse of power as a common body and 
as individual members of this body. .. healing, to be a genuinely 
empowering process, must be sustained by political commitments. 

And what might such healing commitments be? What commitments 
would contribute to the healing of our common body? 

1. A healing commitment to embody respect for all living 
creatures — and solidarity with persons of color; lesbians and gay men; 
the poor among us; differently abled and elderly people; women and 
children and all living creatures who suffer abusive power relations. 

2. A healing commitment to celebrate friendship rooted and 
nurtured through the power of the erotic, and to rejoice in 
relationships of embodied mutual love and pleasure. 

3. A healing commitment to fidelity in our friendships and other 

4. A healing commitment not to grant coupling or heterosexual 
•arriage a privileged social status apart from other forms of relational 

5. A healing commitment to affirm safer-sex play among mutually 
related persons, an affirmation grounded in respect for bodily integrity 
and in our needs and desires to touch and be touched. 

6. A healing commitment to treat childbearing and childrearing as 
a special covenant, in which children would be wanted and cared for with 
tenderness and with respect for their bodily integrity. 

7. A healing commitment to nonviolent, nonabusive, noncontrolling 
relationships and to holding one another accountable for our violent, 
abusive, or controlling behavior. 

8. A healing commitment to acknowledge and confess our relational 
failures, and to learn from our mistakes, including ways in which we 


ourselves participate in abusive power relations. 

9. A healing commitment to be a -forgiving and forgiven people. 

10. A healing commitment to recognize the plurality o-f human 
intimacy needs, to respect differences, and learn with one another a 
greater capacity not merely for tolerance, but for celebration of our 

11. A healing commitment to grant sex a blessed place among us, 
thereby ending our sexually obsessive efforts to control ourselves and 
others by rigid rules, "ethics," attitudes, and behavior. 

12. A healing commitment to the care and respect of not only human 
beings but other earth creatures as well. 

13. A healing commitment to help one another keep things in 
perspective, which would generate humor among us and enable us to smile 
and laugh — not at, but with, one another. In a perceptive and playful, 
tender and forgiving spirit, we would learn to smile and lauqh together. 

Such a sense of embodiment leads us down a path which most of us have not 

known, a path to wholeness and power. 

Particularity : Attempt to show how we 
are different, to respect the particu- 
larity of each person rather than to 
ignore and deny such differences, and 
to recognize the richness and complexity 
which these particularities bring to the 
community. The political goal is to 
value and use the lived experience of 
all persons, especially those on the 
margin, to transform the society. 

Until recently I had not used the word "particularity". Coming from a 

liberal perspective, I had not focused on how I was different but rather on 

how I was the same as others, particularly those with whom I wanted to relate. 

It has been freeing to be challenged by Feminist Liberation to embrace and 

value «y particularities of race, gender, nationality, class, age, vocation, 

etc. to take pride in who I am; and to recall who »y people have been in ages 

past and who they are now. However important it is to affirm one's 

particularities, the process can also be painful, particularly for white, 

•iddle-strata women, as we can see in Russell's sharing of her ■experience: 

...I would much rather be searching than inheriting . I would 
rather be naming and claiming «y own future together with «y sisters. 


Instead, I -find myself having to confess that as a white middle-class 
North American woman I have inherited benefits that accrue to me 
disproportionately because of the social structures of racism, classism, 
and imperialism. I also have to confess that a great deal of this 
results from my fathers ' gardens and binds me to the patriarchal family 
structures out of which they have come. 

Perhaps confession is good for more than the soul. It can be the 
aeans of remembering our inheritance, or lack thereof, and testing out, 
together with others, the ways that our parents' 1 gardens «ay have been 
tended by the same hands and feet that trampled the gardens of Third 
World sisters and brothers, Bothers and fathers. Such confession is 
truly difficult, but the sharing of garden stories say bear fruit for 
sharing around the global table where all are welcome. ... (19) 

It is only in facing our particularities, both the wonderful and painful 

aspects of them, that we recognize that the commonality which we white, 

middle-strata clergywomen assume is a figment of our race and class privilege. 

The commonality among women that we assume does violence to the particularity 

of women of color, lesbian women, old women, women with disabilities, poor 

women. Third World women, etc. It also dis-values and violates us; we are 

less than authentic. The assumption that our experience is universal is a 

white, middle-strata phenomenon. Heyward reflects the experience of coming to 

an awareness of this fact: 

Since childhood, I have had a dream of a common language. It- 
remained in the realm of liberal idealism until I was faced in the last 
ten years with the fact that my Black friends were saying, "No, 
commonality doesn't include us. It's always on white women's terms" I 
said, "What? Explain, please." As I have read andthad it explained to 
me, it has become very evident that we don't build commonality simply on 
our desires that we all think alike or be alike or dress alike or look 
alike. While middle-strata folks tend to assume that everyone wants to 
be white, middle class in our values, we need a vision aore deeply 
nuanced and textured than that, having to do with taking people's lives 
very seriously as they are, and as we are. (20) 

Our society tends to be organized in such a way as to undergird, and 

therefore perpetuate, privileges associated with race, class, gender, age, 

etc. The institutions and structures of our society keep these differentials 

of power in place. We benefit from the system in those areas in which our 


particularities place us in a dominant group. Even if, as individual members 

of the dominant group (e.g. white), we try to do nothing to keep these 

oppressive relationships in place in our lives, we still continue to benefit 

from unjust power relationships. Those of us who benefit from oppressive 

systems by reason of our race, gender, class, sexual orientation or age, need 

to recognize that we have done nothing to merit such privilege. It is not a 

matter of merit, it is an ontological reality — it comes with being white, with 

being male, with being heterosexual, with having an able body, or with being 

born comparably affluent. Nelle Morton, a deeply loved educator and 

theologian in the Presbyterian Church, once said to me, "Each day when I walk 

out of my house, I benefit from privileges which people of color and the poor 

do not have. " (21) 

It is true that our lives are shaped on the basis of our particular 

social locations. These particularities determine wherein we have privilege 

or do not. They will determine how we view the world and the people and 

creatures therein. We see this vividly in the impact of Soelle's 

particularities on her life and work. The fact that she was a German, 

Christian teenager during World War II means that she sees World War II in a 

different way than, for example, an older Jew from Poland who survived a 

concentration camp. She reflects on the impact of her growing up in Germany 

during the war: 

...I am from German origin and embedded in German history in this 
century which made me, first of all, a natural internationalist critical 
over against any tradition in ay own country, such as militarism, 
expansionism, imperialism, racism and sexism because all of them went 
together in Hitler's understanding of the human life and his ideal of 
what he called National Socialism. The seeds of liberation were planted 
by my parents, specifically by my mother and her critique of the Nazis. 
My parents were pretty anti-fascist. They had many, aany Jewish 
friends, and knew quite a bit about the persecution of those friends 
during the Nazi time, in terms of their being thrown out from their 


jobs, -fired, or even mistreated or brought to concentrat ion camps and so 
on. But even in those early years when I was a girl of seven or eight, 
I knew pretty precisely in the world that I lived in to speak truly my 
■ind was dangerous. The seeds planted -from the very beginning were 
seeds of freedom in a comprehensive sense o-f the word "freedom" . 

...In my later years of my youth, my parents hid a Jewish woman in 
our house. She stayed for almost a month in 1943 because there was the 
danger that she would be taken to a camp. So she stayed with us, and we 
had to keep silent about this fact.... I recall especially the fact that 
we went to a shelter during the bombing of Cologne, my home town, and we 
couldn't take her with us so she would go to the cellar of our house 
which was very weak. It was a lightly built house. I was always afraid 
we would come back to find her dead or wounded without being able to 
call the doctor. There were many seeds planted in these experiences of 
•y childhood and youth. ... (22) 

On the one hand, Soelle's particularities meant th&t she experienced the 
war firsthand, unlike myself, but she was protected from the concentration 
camps because she was not a Jew. She could have lived with the assumption 
that Hitler was right or, perhaps, that he was an aberration of history for 
whom she and her family bore no responsibility. Instead, Soelle was born into 
a particular German, Christian family in which her parents set aside their 
privilege as Christians to protect a Jew — they could have all been imprisoned 
and treated as if they were Jews as a result. This particularity of her 
history contributes greatly to who she is today, a woman deeply committed to 
peace, justice and liberation the world over, a Feminist Liberation theologian 
living out her worldview passionately. 

The result of valuing our particularities is that we are »ore apt to 
value the particularities of others. If we are ignorant of the privilege our 
own particularities provide us, we tend to assume that everyone's experience 
of life is the same. For example, at a conference on racism, a Black woman 
asked a white woman whom she saw when she looked at her. The white woman 
responded with all kinds of descriptions of the woman without mentioning her 

race. When questioned about this, she said, "I don't see you as Black woman, 

I see you as a person." This is liberalism taken to the extreme, in which 

the significant particularities o-f others are denied because it is thought to 

do so indicates broadmindedness and progressiveness. We believe that to 

ignore our own particularities and those of others is to move away -from 

hurtful stereotypes, while in reality we are violating ourselves and others 

most cruelly, denying our own identity and that of the other person. 

Feminist Liberation calls us to recognize our differences; to face the 

painful reality of how they benefit some of us and harm others; to enjoy the 

diversity these differences afford us, to embrace the change our 

acknowledgement of these differences brings into our lives, and to know that 

they, in the end, will make us stronger, wiser and more nearly just than if we 

were all the same. 

Global Awareness : Believe that 
what happens in this country 
impacts persons around the world 
and vice versa. There is a special 
concern for the impact of the U.S. 
imperialism on the lives of persons 
worldwide and a profound commitment 
to peace. 

Feminist Liberation calls us to be globally aware in the sense that we 

recognize the impact of an event or action in one part of the world on the 

whole. One is more aware of this connection if one is in a small country that 

depends on other countries for its survival. For instance, when I was in Peru 

for a year, I became much more mindful of this reality. In Peru, there is an 

expression: "If the United States sneezes, we get pneumonia." All three of 

the women theologians whom I have interviewed have traveled to countries and 

cultures outside the so-called First World. Their travel has made a areat 


impact on them and their understanding of politics, theology and life in 

general. For example, Heyward's visits to Nicaragua have trans-formed 

her understanding of community: 

...Here in this war-torn situation, met by the witness of Nicaraguan 
campesinas as well as Sandinista leaders, I recognize in these people 
what I value in us all. U.S. citizens are wounded by our lack of 
solidarity, our failure to realize that we are a common people. It is 
not my particular failure, or anyone's, but rather ours together. Those 
who come bearing good news that there is a better way, a more caring, 
less cluttered way, are always folks who have found this way together, 
working for some form of justice to which they are passionately 
committed. I delight in the liberation that can come when people act 
together, living and working cooperatively rather than as self- 
sufficient monads. ... (23) 

Nicaragua not only challenged Heyward's thinking and her developing of . 

theology and ethics but it also challenged her way of living, her way of 

treating herself. In my interview with her, she shared how Nicaragua and its 

people were central in facing her addiction to alcohol. In speaking of her 

move toward recovery, she said, 

...Facing this addiction was a spiritual turning point for me, which I 
associate with the Nicaraguan experience. What I experienced about my 
faith and commitment in Nicaragua pushed me toward sobriety. The 
Nicaraguan trip helped me begin to realize that I had to take stock of 
my own life and figure out how I was going to live it in order to be 
able to help make right-relation, not just in the world out there, but 
also embody it in myself in order to keep going.... 

Such transformation is not accidental. Traveling to other parts of the 

world, especially in the Third World, (24) is apt to jar our understandings of 

what is important in life, to the extent that we are Dpen to "paradigm 

shifts," as Heyward describes her experience. We can move beyond our 

parochial way of perceiving things when we move out beyond the familiar 

parameters of our lives. Russell confirms this when she says that travel is 

important to basic transformation and essential for a good theological 


The other -form of cognitive dissonance (which leads to change) is 
new experiences which invalidate your old way of thinking. I think that 
is so important that I spend a lot o-f time working with the World 
Council, traveling, starting travel seminars, taking my students on 
travel seminars. I try to get all o-f my students, if at all possible, 
to do internships in Third World counties. I don't think there is any 
substitute for working in a so-called Third World part of this country 
or abroad to coming to see the world differently. (25) 

Travel also can help us face what is happening to the Third World at the 

hands of the First World. We can be awakened to the imperialistic attitudes 

which many of us hold and the impact of those attitudes in the lives of real 

people in other parts of the world. On the one hand, such experiences can 

lead to tremendous alienation and guilt; on the other hand, they can enable us 

to draw parallels with our own history and move to challenge the way things 

are. (26) Soelle's poem, "The lord of history" illustrates the latter option: 

And in fifteen hundred and twenty-five 

in the peasants" war in germany 

a rainbow rose 

the earth shall not be cursed 

Ana in nineteen eighty 

in the war in el Salvador 

the guerrillas are celebrating mass 

the dead shall not have suffered torture in vain 

And in fifteen hundred and twenty-five 
the peasants trusted god 
who had allied himself with the earth 
and they set out with pitchforks 

And in nineteen eighty 
the campesinos believe in maiden maria 
the mighty he will cast from their thrones 
they sing the old song 

And in fifteen hundred and twenty-five 

god betrayed the peasants 

and he once again cursed 

the earth that knows not «ine and thine 

And in nineteen eighty 

god made a deal with the rich 

you see them grinning humbly on tv 

they know they're on the side of the lord of history 


to know that 

and still re-fuse 

to believe in tanks and stocks and bonds 
to know that 

and not end up deranged 

like friedrich h* in his tower on the neckar 
to know that 

and still pray 

in the name of the tortured 

♦Friedrich Holderlin (1770-1843), eminent lyric poet, suffered from serious 
uental illness for the last forty years of his life and occupied a tower room 
overlooking the Neckar River in Tubingen from 1806 until his death. (27) 

A profound sense of the global nature of our lives leads us to the issue 

of peace. Our affirmation of our membership in the global family contributes 

to a rejection of the concept that some human beings are our enemies and 

induces us to embrace a commitment to work so that peace may reign in our 

world. We must struggle to bring an end to the militarism that permeates our 

world and that destroys not only our "enemies," but ourselves. Soelle 

projects a vision of what our world might look like if we were to prevail in 

our efforts for peace: 

Just imagine if peace were to break out. Not an armed, enforced 
peace, but the peace free of violence which we have advocated and for 
the sake of which we will not use violent means, because the means of 
the struggle would cripple the aim of the struggle. We may only use 
nonviolent means to prepare the peace we seek.... We want to hold 
together the ends and the means of our life. 

...We have a totally one-sided viewpoint, one-sided for life and 
against death, one-sided against the tools of «ass destruction, which 
cannot be called weapons any «ore than the gas in Auschwitz deserved to 
be called a "weapon." We are not partly for death and partly for life, 
not for death of others and for our own survival: we stand here because 
we love life whole, undivided and as vulnerable as it happens to 
be.... God created us vulnerable—that means capable of peace. (28) 

Our vulnerability Bakes us aware of our interdependence, more aware of 

our lives being wrapped up with the lives of everyone else. In order for any 

to have peace, all must have peace. In order to live creatively, peace, 

justice and liberation aust prevail. 


What is probably most important about global awareness and experience 

is the hope and vision we discover in our relationsnip with persons in the 

Third World. It is as though we cannot see the vision of and the hope for 

humankind until we have seen more of the world than our little corner. Our 

theology and our political understanding contain gaping holes, like tapestries 

with missing strands, until those strands are provided by those with different 

life experiences, different particularities, and different priorities. It is 

not enough to talk to people from other parts of the world who visit this 

country, although that is an important first step. Too often we forget what 

we have heard and experienced in our exchange here in the States because it is 

drowned out by our own particularities, priorities and ideologies which are 

reinforced by this culture in which we live. When we travel, some of the 

supporting pins of our worldview are strained to the point that they may bend, 

crack or actually break, giving the new a chance to enter into our lives, 

allowing ourselves to be converted to new hope and promise. Once again Soelle 

captures this reality in a poem: 

Girl from chile 

Girl from chile 

with long smooth hair 

over the broad Indian face 

I see you put down the receiver 

in the phone booth 

and smile 

and cross the street 

and smile 

and I know what you said 

and to whom 

Girl from chile 

yesterday I saw one of your sisters 

so weak she was lying on a bed 

because she had eaten nothing for two weeks 

because of her father 

taken away disappeared tortured perhaps aurdered 

girl from chile 


yesterday I saw your sister 

smile your smile 

beneath the gentle steady eyes 

when she talked about her -father 

and about her headache 

and about her -father 

Girl -from chile 

in your country 

love and hunger 

smiling and strikes 

women and strength 

go together 

girl -from chile 

little sister 

share your smile with us 

your hunger -for justice 

your struggle 

that brings out beauty (29) 

Our global awareness makes us better citizens o-f the world in that our 

communication/solidarity with our sisters and brothers helps us to embrace 

humanity as a global -family. Such a notion challenges any narrower concept of 

family that would shut us off from an awareness of our r elatedness to others 

in ever-expanding circles. Seeing ourselves as members of a global family, we 

are better informed and better able to act in the ways of justice. But, even 

more importantly, we who think we have so much to offer others learn that we 

have much more to receive. Our sisters and brothers from all over the earth 

bring what is needed for our healing and spirit filling, thus enabling us to 

•ake appropriate contributions toward the global aovement toward peace and 


Inter dependence : aware that what happens 
to one person impacts everyone else, both 
positively and negatively. Persons are 
very much related and when we work to- 
gether in right-relation to one another, 
to all earth creatures and to the earth 
itself, scarcity and the need for com- 
petition are reduced. The sharing of 
resources and power are then possible. 


At> mentioned in the section on the communal nature of Feminist 

Liberation, the individualistic proclivity o-f Liberal Feminism manifests 

itself in a perception that persons and groups are clusters of individual 

units which often impact each other negatively. Feminist Liberation 

challenges this assumption with a strong commitment to interdependence among 

persons as well as with all earth creatures and the earth itself. Our 

reliance upon each other is imperative for our well being, indeed, for our 

survival. Heyward has come to a much stronger sense of her interdependence 

with others: ■ 

At the heart of the whole thing is the tension between active 
involvement and knowing our limits; therefore experiencing some 
serenity. We can't do more than we can do, and it's really O.K. If not 
me, someone else; and if not now, later. On the one hand, the world is 
utterly dependent on how I live my life. I have to take that seriously. 
I do matter and so does everyone else; therefore my ethics, my values 
and my involvements are of consequence. I have to think of what I am 
doing and do what I can. On the other hand, I am just one person... We 
really are like the locusts crossing the river. We are building our 
lives on the bodies of those who went before, and our bodies become the 
bridge for those who come after. The human race, as Olive Schriener put 
it, will pass upon this bridge and so will other earth creatures. 
That's the way history and nature are moving.... I don't have to make it 
happen — it's happening already. I can contribute to it, and that's all 
I can do. (30) 

All three theologians not only see themselves in an interdependent 

relationship with other people but also with all of creation. Within Feminist 

Liberation there is a growing awareness of the integral dynamic between humans 

and other earth creatures as well as other parts of the created order. The 

total disregard for this essential relationship has led to the rape of the 

earth, the extinction of animal and plant species, and the pollution of air, 

water, and soil. Unfortunately, the way we often have learned of our 

relationship to all rreation is through destruction, disease, and death. In 


response to my question about how she sees herself using her time and energy 

in the next twenty years, Soelle stated a strong awareness o-f what we have 

done to creation: 

The other point is, of course, killing our Mother the Earth and 
destroying our natural resources, the unrenewable resources of our 
earth, and the whole question of what would happen to us under this 
"greenhouse" effect, etc., etc. 

The need for the mending of creation is reflected in Russell's awareness of 

the interrelationship between us and creation: 

In my theology I have tried to image this world beyond oppression 
as a mended creation in which human beings, nature, and all creation are 
set iree from their groaning and at home with one another.... 

I first heard this simple expression of eschatological hope from 
Krister Stendahl, who said that theology is worrying about what God is 
worrying about when God gets up in the morning: the mending of 
creation. . . (31) 

The vision of interdependence toward which Feminist Liberation pushes 
us, brings us to the issue of right relation which Heyward defines as justice. 
We are called not only to acknowledge our interdependence, but to be in right- 
relation with ourselves, others, God and creation, to be doers of justice. In 
speaking of right relation the editors of Revolutionary Forgiveness write that 
"a sacred relationship exists between all living things. The world is held 
together by the power of positive, mutually-beneficial relationship. Without 
it there is no world. "(32) Then they quote Heyward' s journal where she 
ponders right-relation as it relates to forgiveness in the context of U.S.- 
Nicaragua relations: 

Right-relation and forgiveness can be cultivated only in those 
situations in which we know ourselves to be basically good because we 
are essentially social — connected, related to one another: Our 
relatedness is holy ground. The power that connects us is love, God; 
hence, we are "by nature" bound in love, members of good and holy order- 
-creation itself. 

Far from romantic, this view of human nature and of our power to 
forgive our enemies seems to me laden with theological radicalism and 
pragmatic social implications. To begin with, this affirmation of human 


goodness presupposes ou.' social nature and, hence, our social 
responsibility. No one is left out of either the benefits or the 
responsibilities of living in a relation of love toward the neighbor. 
We share a moral imperative to insure that neither we nor others live 
outside or at the margins of a common pool of resources. From a moral 
perspective we must socialize our economic gains and losses because, 
from a theological perspective, we are a common folk. (33) 

Russell's concept of right-relation echoes that of Heyward's: 

Putting things right involves seeing things right. It involves 
seeing things in an interconnected web of life redeemed and blessed by- 
God. It also involves recognizing that the term "Creator" is a personal 
term. For the Creator is one who has shown love not only for human 
creatures but also for all creatures and for all creation... 

The gift of New Creation by a loving Creator should be sufficient 
for us to see reality in a new way, so that we see all of creation, not 
as a hierarchy, but as an interdependent partnership of life in which we 
work to bring to the world signs of wholeness and shalom. (34) 

In Isaiah 43, we find Cod saying, "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now 

it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" Feminist Liberation invites us to 

perceive the New Creation, one in which the created order is seen as 

inextricably connected, and to take our rightful places as co-creators of and 

co-participants in that New Creation. 

Marqinality : See all women as 
marginal within society, but the 
focus is placed on women with the 
least privilege. Have a commit- 
ment to pay special attention to 
the experience of those most mar- 
ginalized when determining strate- 
gies and priorities. 

Feminist Liberation challenges white, aiddle-strata clergywomen to move 

•from the center to the margin. This is a "transvaluation" in that, what has 

traditionally been held up as ultimate, has generally been thought of as in 

the center while that which is least valued is at the aargin. Thus the word, 

"■arginalized", has been used to describe the aisbegotten and rejected of 

society. Consistent with this view, Liberal Feminism originates among women 


with the most privilege in this society, straight, middle-strata, white women; 

while the concerns and issues o-f poor, lesbian, racial ethnic and other 

marginalized women have either been ignored or pushed aside for later 

consideration. Feminist Liberation summons us to realise that those who are 

the most marginalized determine where liberation needs to happen and what 

shape that liberation needs to take. Russell challenges us to "listen to the 

underside" in order to reformulate our theological perspectives: 

...According to Luke 4:18-19, the gospel is good news for the poor and 
for those on the underside of society. If we want to understand that 
gospel and live it out, our interpretation cannot be based solely on our 
own critical analysis, experience, and vision. Our own particular 
theological paradigm needs to be stretched and expanded by the stories 
and insights both of those who themselves are victims of domination and 
of those who stand in solidarity with the victims and share their 
fate. (35) 

She then goes on to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose writings from prison 

reflect the same understanding of where we must place our attention if we are 

to understand the realities of this life and change them: 

We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from 
below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the 
maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled — in short, from 
the perspective of those who suffer. (36) 

I believe that, for the most part, only those with some significant 
experience of marginalization of which they are aware can make their point of 
reference that of margin rather than center, bottom rather than top. Without 
such consciousness, there are very few who can understand the necessity for 
turning their worlds upside down and who are willing to take the risks 
involved to do so. 

Our priorities will be changed when we follow the lead of the most 
marginalized, when they are empowered (37) to find their voices and make their 
demands. Our strategies and commitments will be determined largely by those 


who are the "least o-f these, our sisters and brothers." Those of us with 
privilege in various areas will step back and -follow the lead o-f those without 
that privilege. For all o-f us this is difficult, but it is essential if our 
lives and the life of our world are to be transformed. Russell told of an 
experience of following the lead of the marginalized during a Civil 
Disobedience action: 

. . . (W) e were working on issues of the integration in the schools 
of New York City and other related issues of integration in the city. 
We were asked to sit-in in relation to a demonstration which was 
blocking trucks coming into a site in Queens, trying to force people who 
had city contracts to hire Blacks in construction. I did it because we 
were asked to do it. We were organizing committees, and the basis of 
our organization was that we would do, unless our consciences prevented 
it, what it was that the Black leadership decided were the best 
strategies. They felt that was an important strategy, so I and some of 
the other people, namely ministers, went over and formed a human 
chain... We all sat down, and they picked us up and hauled us away... 

I felt I was obeying the law and that they had violated the law by 
not hiring integrated work crews when they were contracting with New 
York State.... The most interesting thing about it was after a day in 
jail, we got out on bail.... The group, that sponsored this and also 
would be getting the lawyers, decided that we should all declare 
ourselves guilty. That made me furious, but I did it because they 
didn't want to spend the money to defend us.... If you plead guilty, they 
gave you a suspended sentence or at least you had the likelihood of 
getting a suspended sentence whereas if you declared yourself not 
guilty, you had to go to court and provide a lawyer. 

...(this experience) helped me to learn how hard it is to do what 
it is that someone else wants you to do even if you don ? t approve of it, 
what it means for a white liberal to do what a group of Black leaders 
decide to do. (38) 

When we dare to listen to the Host marginalized and when we dare to 

stand with them, our lives are different. We are no longer able to look at 

life in the sane way. In such a process of reversal, the marginalized move 

from the margin to the center! It is not *s comfortable for us as it was 

before, for always before us are the images of how our privileges protect us 

from the experiences of the most marginalized. Such an image remains in 

Soelle's heart and mind after her travels in Central America: 


Saturday be-fore easter ? 81 

oh when 

will the graves -finally be empty 

the exhuming of victims unnecessary 

the pictures gone 

o-f children sprayed with a new poison 

that turns the skin black and peeling 

and makes the eyes sink into their sockets 

oh when 

will the graves -finally be empty 

of mutilated bodies 

in el Salvador 

When I -first became a christian 

I wanted to see christ 

striking me down on the road to damascus 

I pictured the place something like gottingen 

the empty tomb was no more than a -fairy tale 

for the unenlightened 

Now I've been becoming a christian 

for a long time 

and I have occasionally seen jesus 

the last time as an old woman in nicaragua 

who was learning to read she was beaming 

not just her eyes but also her hair thinned by age 

and her twisted feet 

she was beaming all over 

But I've also grown poorer 

depressed I scurry through the city 

I even go to demonstrations 

half expecting courage to be passed out there 

and I r d give anything to see 

the other half of the story 

the empty tomb on easter morning 

and empty graves in el Salvador (38) 

Sometimes when we are called to stand with the most marginalized, we are 

treated as they are. We no longer are allowed to use the protection of our 

privilege. Usually the "punishment" is shunning, loss of one's good name, 

imprisonment, or loss of job. Occasionally, the punishment of death is 

exacted. We remember the four church women who died in El Salvador because 

they championed the rights of the poor and the young engineer who was killed 


in a Contra attack because he was improving the lot o-f poor Nicaraguans. To 

stand with those who are the most rejected in society may not be an easy road 

to -follow, but it is one of the few which offers life in its fullest. It is 

only in standing on the margin that our perspective allows us to see the way 

to liberation, peace and justice. 

Transformation : The attitude toward 
history includes an understanding of 
the past as essential for the work 
necessary to bring about transforma- 
tion in the present/future. An 
oppositional worldview provides the 
vision and hope for human agency in 
the building of a new social order. 

Those who embrace Feminist Liberation value the past and those who 

inhabited it, for it is in affirming and understanding our past that we can be 

about shaping our present and future. Without that sense of the importance cf 

our past, we stand naked in history, unprepared to meet the challenges that 

face us. As has often been stated, we must learn from the lessons of the 

past, especially in order to avoid the same mistakes. I believe we have even 

more to gain than that. We can have a sense of "being surrounded by a cloud 

of witnesses" who can show us the paths which they have already cut and 

traveled. Soelle and Fulbert Steffensky write: 

When we are too weak by ourselves to preserve life's grand desires 
and dreams, we can look for the dreams which our fellow Christians of 
the past have had. Precisely because we recognize that our own lives, 
isolated and separated from others, are barren and insufficient, we have 
therefore linked ourselves up with the desires, the courage, and the 
work of the many. We discover then, that we certainly don't need to be 
alone for ourselves only. There were people before us who have engaged 
in the struggle. . . 

Church means also to have a place where such stories are 
remembered and told. We need these risky memories of the many and the 
courageous who are around us and have gone before us. We also need to 
have confidence in those who will come after us. We hope that when our 
own strength diminishes those who come after us will achieve more than 
we have achieved. .. (40) 


It is exciting to think that we live in a history in which neither moments nor 

persons are isolated entities; our present moment is connected to our past, to 

our -future, and to those who live in past and future. 

As a result, we not only value and learn -from our past but we also have 

a vision -for our corporate -future. We cannot simply wait -for the -future to 

come; we must be about shaping it. Yet we can only help the -future un-fold 

when we have a clear sense of the guide markers -for that journey. For 

example, Soelle has said that her present and -future are guided by her 

commitments to justice, peace, and the integrity o-f creation. With such' a set 

o-f commitments, she can move forward with a sense of vision as to what kind of 

future she would like to see us share. Russell's notion of the proleptic 

helps me understand how we live into the future toward which we wish to move: 

For women in the church, freedom began long ago and it is time to act 
now, as if they are free! They are called to live now within the 
horizon o-f the New Age. The expression Paul used to introduce this life 
of "provisional freedom' 1 is hos roe ("as if not"). They are to live as 
if not ; as if the facts of the situation are only provisional because of 
the horizon of freedom. The prolepsis or anticipation of the new world 
is breaking in and all other aspects of life cannot be taken with utter 
seriousness. ... (41) 

To live proleptically is to live as though our visions are fulfilled, thereby 

bringing them to fulfillment. We are not stuck with what we've got! We need 

not wait for the millennium, although it is only ten years off, to live our 

visions. Our past helps us to paint our visions, so we go full circle. This 

kind of integration of past/present/future is seen in a portion of one of 

Soelle ? s poems in which she lifts up the lives of three important women of the 

past who lived proleptically so as to point to a new future: 

"Flay me a song about rosa, anna, and rosa: n 

...Sing about anna walentinowic 

crane operator in danzig 

sing of the strike and why it broke out 


and don't -forget rosa parks 

don't ever forget that she stayed seated 

•for each one of us no matter how white our skin 

stayed seated in the bus in alabsma 

where blacks were not supposed to sit 

Sing about women 

just looking at them makes me stronger 

makes me laugh 

solidly built like anna the crane operator 

who scared them so much they -fired her to avoid trouble 

a preventive layoff from her job on the crane 

Don't forget our great sister rosa luxemburg either 

she came from anna's country 

that small country thirsting for freedom 

split and gagged occupied and possessed 

beaten and raped 

but never subdued 

sing about rosa 

and about the spontaneity of the people 

she believed in 

like anna the crane operator 

Pid you see her picture 

sing another song about anna 

about the hope of the dock workers 

for meat and the right to defend themselves 

for bread and for roses 

Anna walentinowic 

the papers don't carry your story 

because people here don't know 

what it means to be a woman 

a human being 

a crane operator 

who makes strikes possible 

because we're still expected to admire 

sweet little bunnies 

not a woman with a laugh like anna's 

with four children and now and then 

a preventive layoff me a song about anna and the two rosas 

play about real people 

about women strong and vulnerable 

caring for others and independent 

fighting for you too in the teller's cage at Chase Manhattan Bank 

for all our sisters 

play about bread and roses 

play about the price of «eat and a free labor union 

play against steel helmets and what's inside them 


play against atomic missiles and what's behind them 
you can't arrest the sun 

it shines 
they flower 
they laugh 

you can't censor the roses 
you can't keep women down 

Play about rosa luxemburg 
play about rosa parks 
play about anna walentinowic 
play about our sisters 
play about us (42) 

Feminist Liberation holds up an oppositional worldview/vision which 

challenges the reign of domination and provides the vision and hope -for the 

building of a new social order in which justice, love and peace will prevail. 

Gloria Anzaldua describes such an oppositional vision as El Mundo Zurde (the 

Left-handed World) : 

The pull between what is and what should be. I believe that by 
changing ourselves we change the world, that traveling El Hun do Zurdo 
path is the path of a two-way movement — a going deep into the self and 
an expanding out into the world, a simultaneous recreation of the self 
and a reconstruction of society.... 

We are the queer groups, the people that don't belong anywhere, 
not in the dominant world nor completely within our own respective 
cultures. Combined we cover so many oppressions. But the overwhelming 
oppression is the collective fact that we do not fit , and because we do 
not fit we are a threat . Not all of us have the same oppressions, but 
we empathize and identify with each other's oppressions. We do not have 
the same ideology, nor do we derive similar solutions. ... In El Mundo 
Zurdo, I with my own affinities and my people with theirs can live 
together and transform the planet. (43) 

We see this same kind of vision of a new world in the three theologians 
whom I have chosen to reflect Feminist Liberation. It is clear that they, 
too, have an oppositional worldview which leads to the transformation of 
individuals and society and the church as well. God is, indeed, doing a new 
thing in our midst! One of the most powerful statements of this new world- 
view/vision is found in Heyward's reflection on women's ministries in the 


Episcopal Church: 

The intensity o-f this vision of God's realm may blind us with its 
brilliance, yet we see. Our participation in the common-wealth o-f joy 
and pride in all that is good will cost us, yet we celebrate. The 
sacred space in which courage and compassion are one may con-found us, 
yet we know. We know that our vision o-f what the church must be if it 
is to be worth a moment o-f either human or divine time calls us to be 
both its bearers and its -fulfillment; both theotokos , the bearer, and 
corpus christa , the born. We know that together, in solidarity, we are 
she: women and men, older and younger, people of different races and 
cultures and religions, we are she. Lesbians and gay men, heterosexual 
■en and women, married and single, with our diverse gifts and our 
divergent interests, in our shared commitment to human well-being, we 
are she. In our own Christian faith we know that in our shared 
commitment to human well-being, we are she: bearer and born, mother and 
child. We are the Christa (the name of Edwina Sandys' sculpture of a 
female Christ). (44) 

Reflecting on this new vision, I am often overwhelmed by the scope of 

the task facing those of us who embrace Feminist Liberation. I think I am not 

up to the job o-f transforming my own life, much less the whole world or 

cosmos. I am tempted to stop before I have started, but then I remember 

Soelle's words in her meditation on responding to the continuing reality of 

Auschwitz in our day. She gives a traditional answer of prayer, which I might 

easily dismiss if it did not come from her lips: 

To pray means not to despair. We must understand that we are in 
the midst of the despairing who have already given their consent to 
death. To pray is to speak out against death. 

To pray means to collect ourselves, to reflect, to gain clarity 
about our direction in life, about our goals for living. It means to 
remember and in that to achieve a likeness with God, to envision what we 
seek for ourselves and for our children, to give voice to that vision 
loudly and softly, together and alone, and thus to become more and more 
the people we were intended to be. (45) 

On what better note could me end our discussion of the elements of Feminist 

Liberation and its call to a transformative vision! 

The Process of Beginning, the Journey Toward Feminist Liberation : I 

think that it is clear by now that to embrace Feminist Liberation is no simple 


shift in one's life; it is a paradigm shift that turns one's life upside down. 
How would someone come to the point of risking such a violent overthrow of 
what life has been for her? Each of our three theologians gives us a glimpse 
of the process of each beginning that journey. Heyward describes her 
transformative experience in relation to her recovery process: 

By the summer of 1985, I was just exhausted — I had dealt with 
experiences of death (her father's), fear (of her own death in relation 
to a lump in her breast which was thought to be cancerous) and 
Nicaragua, and I didn't know what to do with my teaching or my time 
other than more of what I was already doing, and I was too tired to do 
that. It happened that I had a Sabbatical coming up, and I took a whole 
year.... In October of "85, just a little over a year after Dad had died 
and I had returned from Nicaragua and six months after this breast- lump 
had been removed, I joined A. A., having been pushed in that direction by 
a couple of friends who confronted me with their concern about my 

I had no idea wh&t recovery was going to be about. I thought I 
was going to stop drinking and feel better. It doesn't work that way. 
Stop drinking, then everything falls apart. That's what I discovered. 
I stopped drinking. I really did think that within about a week I would 
feel energetic and great. Instead I began feeling , feeling pain and 
fatigue more than I had ever felt it, feeling confusion more than I had 
ever felt it. 

The next year was chaotic in terms of extraordinary vocational 
confusion but, at least, I wasn't drinking, and I was getting healthier. 
It was happening slowly and organically. (46) 

Certainly the recovery process from alcoholism was not the only contributing 

factor to Heyward' s understanding Feminist Liberation, but it was a powerful 

indication of her willingness to challenge her priorities and her assumptions 

about life in general and about her life in particular. 

For Russell the »ost significant paradigm shift in her life was her 

decision to go to East Harlem to minister. This experience was the one which 

most clearly jarred her presuppositions about life. She also points to the 

importance of her childhood experience of perceiving herself as a misfit as 

the basis for her decision to go to East Harlem. She reflects on why she was 

willing to be involved in subversive activity that challenged the assumptions 


o-f her family: 

hy -first clue to such subversive activity comes -from long experience 
with being a misfit . I-f you are a tomboy and -five feet eight inches 
tall in the seventh grade, you never do -fit -female cultural norms. Most 
certainly a white middle-class woman never -fits in a New York ghetto 
neighborhood, nor does she fit in a Christian Brothers men's college or 
(■for that matter) in the ministry. Sometimes this being on the margin 
can give the -freedom to breathe, even the freedom to maintain a self- 
critical stance toward the use of your own inheritance, if indeed this 
is a place where you find it worthwhile to continue the struggle. (47) 

These views are echoed in her response to my interview question about the 

seeds of liberation found in her early life: 

I think that everything pointed in that direction. I was always a' 
person who didn't feel that she fit in and who always had ideas about 
what she wanted to do. And they didn't necessarily fit the stereotypes 
of what people thought. (I asked her how she survived not feeling as if 
she fit in.) I had the support of my family. They said it was O.K. to 
be me.... I think my own sense of myself that it was O.K. to be a misfit 
was simply that it was O.K. in my family, and I didn't feel insecure 
about that . . . . 

When I later asked her about embracing Feminist Liberation, she said she 

saw it as a natural extension of that earlier paradigm shift when she decided 

to go to East Harlem Protestant Parish. In other words, she became a 

liber at ion ist first and then a feminist: 

I think that the basic shift in my worldview came from going to work in 
East Harlem in 1952, and so there haven't been any basic shifts since 
then because that was a basic shift from a middle-class point to view to 
the point of view of Black and Hispanic poor, urban people. I have 
learned a world about my own prejudice and my perspective and my own 
privilege in the last 10-15 years, but my basic commitment to work on 
issues of race, sex and class aren't much different from 15 years 
ago. ... 

In a sense because I am a white, middle-class North American, I 
will always be a liberal feminist, because liberalism is part of the 
bourgeois tradition. It's individualism. It's being rational, open- 
minded. I grew up in that culture. I don't think I am ever going to 
get beyond that probably, but I came to feminism when I was already an 
advocate of liberation. ... I became a feminist liberationist and then 
became more and more aware of the way in which my class and my color 
still played out.... Like many feminists of my age, I came out of the 
Civil Rights Movement and various renewal movements post war, and those 
movements were basically concerned about justice issues so feminism was 
added to the justice issues.... 


In some ways Soelle^s experience was similar to Russell's in that she 

was committed to other justice and liberation issues before she embraced 

-feminism. I have already quoted Soelle's response to my question about the 

seeds of liberation, which were planted earlier for her Feminist Liberation 

perspective. She points to her early childhood in Nazi Germany and how that 

has determined her struggle for peace, justice, and liberation throughout her 

adult years. She explains then how she came to feminism: 

If you ask me whether my concept of justice has changed over the years, 
I think it has become broader. The places where I saw God moving -in 
history through the liberation movements of justice have changed. They 
are much broader. The first challenge to me was feminism. After a long 
time I worked with and for justice in terms of international solidarity 
work, in terms of fighting against the Vietnam War and other atrocities 
in my lifetime. This has changed because of the clearer picture of the 
repression inside the First World and its societies. ... If we understand 
injustice as a form of violence against those weaker than others, in 
other words, those who are further down on the hierarchical pyramid, I 
don't 1 think the old themes of justice which were in my mind have 
changed too much. It's like a tree planted by the waters which has 
grown over the years: it has more branches now and a little more foliage 
now, but it is still the same tree. And in a way my roots in the 
tradition have deepened over the years. (48) 

As we can see in the lives of Heyward, Russell and Soelle, many factors 
might push one in the direction of Feminist Liberation, whether it is a sense 
of not fitting, the trauma of war, death of loved ones, serious illness, 
recovery process in relation to addiction, or travel in the Third World. 
Something causes us to turn around, to be converted to a new way of life 
called Feminist Liberation. It is not an easy life, but it is one which 
provides us with hope and promise. It makes us vulnerable in new ways, ways 
that are essential to passionate living. 

Having said that, I »ust restate that the journey to Feminist Liberation 
is not automatic or smooth. I became aware of just how difficult the process 


of movement toward Feminist Liberation is when I met with a group o-f my 
colleagues and peers — other white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian 
clergywomen. Although we have some of the commitments, analysis, and 
worldview which I associate with Feminist Liberation, we fail to embody that 
worldview consistently in our lives and ministries. I wish to describe the 
issues and themes which emerged in our work together so that I might move on 
to a new understanding of what needs to happen in order for Presbyterian 
clergywomen to better manifest the passionate living made possible in Feminist 



1. Carter Heyward. Our Passion -for Justice; Images of Power. Sexuality and 
Liberation (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1984), p. 163. 

2. Interview in December, 1988. 

3. Letty Russell, Growth in Partnership (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 
1981), p. 85. 

4. Rosemary Ruether, "A Feminist Perspective," in Virginia Fabella and Sergio 
Torres, eds.. Doing Theology in a Divided World (rtaryknoll: Orbis Books, 
1985), p. 70. 

5. Carter Heyward, Our Passion -for Justice , p. xv. 

6. The Mudflower Collective, God's Fierce Whimsy: Christian Feminism and 
Theological Education (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1985), pp. 63-4. 

7. Letty Russell, The Future of Partnership (Philadelphia: The Westminster 
Press, 1979), p. 19. 

8. It was at the Theological Opportunities Program at Harvard Divinity School 
that I -first heard Katie Cannon describe how her mother instilled in her, at 
an early age, a. hermeneutic of suspicion, an awareness that the system was not 
made to work for her as a black girl. In hearing her describe this training, 

I began to realize that most white women do not have this hermeneutic of 

suspicion. As a result, we believe that the system is supposed to work for us 

if we just do the right thing. When the system does not work for us, we blame 

9. I wish to use Carter's understanding of revolution as reflected in 
Revolutionary Forgiveness: Feminist Reflections on Nicaragua : 

I should never even have been able to speak the word: revolution. 
White southern ladies do not give a damn about revolution. Debutantes 
do not speak of revolution unless we are deranged. Randolph-Macon 
Women's College girls have seen "revolution" only as a ten-letter word 
in textbooks that we hurry on through. Christians don't approve of 
revolution unless it refers to the spiritual war in heaven between, in 
the racist imagery we know so well, "the children o-f light" and "the 
children of darkness." Patriotic 4J.S. citizens do «ot Relieve in the 
virtues of any revolution, except «ur own little fracas some two hundred 
years ago against England, the bloody battle we've cleaned up in our 
historical memory out of respect for those nice white English gentry who 
are, after all, our right-cultured ancestors. 

I should never have even come upon the word, certainly not to 
linger. But I lucked out. fly tenth-grade world history teacher 
understood that the history of the world cannot be comprehended apart 
from students' willingness to study revolution. Thus, in 1960, at age 
fifteen, I became a student of revolution — specifically, of the 



turbulence in the Congo, which my teacher, in her wisdom, would not 
allow us to dismiss as part of a communist plot. 

Since then I have always assumed that behind every revolutionary 
lurks a teacher, parent, -friend, someone who knew how to teach people 
how to think. Not what to think, but how. Rule number one: You. must 
begin with an open mind. 

I am clear, as a teacher, that an open Bind is the most precious 
gi-ft I can offer, and certainly the most valuable o-ffering I can 
receive, in relation to those who go with me into unexplored terrain and 
who discover there, with me, something we have not known before — and 
something we would not know today had we begun our travel with a closed 
set of assumptions. 

A revolutionary is a participant in the historical process of 
social transformation in which basic institutions — that is, government, 
cnurch, family — become something other than what they were. A 
revolutionary teacher knows that we are apt to find something new, an 
image we have not seen before in quite this way. A revolutionary 
teacher knows the revolutionary meaning, hence the social value, of what 
she teaches. She knows that knowledge is never neutral and that all we 
say, write, or read — and all we do not say, write, or read — does some 
service or disservice to the well-being of the creation in which we 

Carter Heyward and Anne Gibson, eds., Revolutionary Forgiveness: Feminist 
Reflections in Nicaragua (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1987), p. 46. 

10. Dorothee Soelle, Of War and Love (haryknoll: Orbis Books, 1981), pp. 45- 

il« Interview in December, 1988. 

12. Letty Russell, et. al., eds.. Inheriting Our Mothers 7 Gardens: Feminist 
Theology in Third World Perspective (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 
1988), p. 147. 

13. Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love 
of God (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1989), pp. 54-5. 

14. Taped interview in August, 1989. 

15. Ibid. 

16. Interview in April, 1989. 

17. Ibid. 

18. Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength , pp. 150-2. 

19. Letty Russell, et. al. eds., Inheriting Our Hothers' Gardens , pp. 143-4. 

20. Interview in December, 1988. 


21. Nelle Morton was a good friend of mine, and she said this during one of 
our many conversat ions. 

22. Taped interview in August, 1989. 

23. Carter Heyward and Anne Gibson, Revolutionary Forgiveness , p. 38. 

24. I am aware of the class privilege that such travel may reflect, but rather 
than say that we should not affirm the crucial impact which Third World travel 
aakes on the lives of feminists, I think that it is important for us to find 
ways to insure that clergywomen are able to travel regardless of their 
financial situations. I believe that a few people can have similar 
experiences by totally investing their lives among the poor of this country. 
The danger is that the middle class values are so pervasive in our society 
that one will succumb to them, leaving behind the new consciousness. I will 
write more about this in Chapter 5. 

25. Interview in April, 1989. 

26. One* 5 consciousness determines how such experiences function in our lives. 
For this reason, it is urgent to have programs and other opportunities through 
which clergywomen can grow in our awareness and learn to apply those new 
worldviews in old and new settings. Chapter 7 will indicate some strategies 
to insure the development of our consciousness. 

27. Dorothee Soelle, Of War and Love , pp. 150-1. 

28. Dorothee Soelle, The Arms Race Kills Even Without War (Philadelphia: 
Fortress Press, 1983), pp. 75-6. 

29. Ibid., p. 104. 

30. Interview in December, 1988. 

31. Letty Russell, Household of Freedom: Authority in Feminist Theology 
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1987), p. 71. 

32. Carter Heyward and Anne Gibson, Revolutionary Forgiveness , p. 99. 

33. Ibid. 

34. Letty Russell, Growth in Partnership , p. 27. 

35. Letty Russell, Household of Freedom , p. 65. 

36. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison , enl., ed. by Eberhard 
Bethge (Macmillan Publishing Co., 1972), p. 17. as quoted by Letty Russell, 
Household of Freedom , p. 66. 

37. The notion of eapoweraent is one embraced by feainists, but the following 
quote indicates that the issue is complicated. 


A good many -feminists have seized upon this concept o-f empowerment 
as relevant to their experience and more congenial than the usual 
concepts o-f power. To be empowered is to experience the value of 
oneself, to take the self seriously in the totality of one's reality- 
body, mind, history, vision, and dreams. To be empowered is to feel 
oneself expanding, getting in touch with one's own needs and goals, 
developing powers of decision, acquiring new skills, becoming able to do 
things formerly feared or viewed as impossible. 

As valuable as this process of empowerment has been, it has tended 
to keep us from coming to terms with the realities of our own power and 
powerlessness and our use of power. Many feminists have tried to 
distinguish sharply between empowerment as development of one's own 
strength and power as "power over" another. Thus women have separated 
"personal power" and "social power," approving the former as "control 
over my own life" and disowning the latter as "control over others." 
But the case is not so simple. Modestly, I may claim only the right to 
control my own decisions without wishing to control others, recognizing, 
of course, that the other has the same rights as the self. But my needs 
conflict with the real needs of others; human beings are interdependent. 
If I want wholesome food to eat, clean air to breathe, pure water to 
drink, to say nothing of adequate health care, a living wage, an end to 
racial discrimination, I need social power; that is, a real voice in the 
allocation of resources and services, which in turn involves a measure 
of control over others. This returns women to the question of how to 
behave when rightful self-affirmation meets resistance. 

The Cornwall Collective, Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Feminist 
Alternatives in Theological Education (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 
1980), pp. 80-1. 

38. Interview in April, 1989. 

39. Dorothee Soelle, Of War and Love , p. 101. 

40. Dorothee Soelle and Fulbert Steffensky, Not Just Yes & Amen: Christians 
with a Cause (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 62-3. 

41. Letty Russell, Human Liberation in a Feminist Perspective: A Theology 
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1974), p. 45. 

42. Dorothee Soelle, Of War and Love , pp. 45-7. 

43. Moranga, Cherrie and Anzaldua, Gloria, •ds., This Bridge Called fly Back: 
Writings by Radical Women of Color (Watertown: Persephone Press, 1981), pp. 

44. Carter Heyward, Speaking of Christ: A Lesbian Feminist Voice (ed. by Ellen 
Davis) (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1989), pp. 83-4. 

45. Dorothee Soelle, The Arms Race Kills Even Without War , p. 23. 


46. Interview in December, 1988. 

47. Letty Russell, et. al., eds., In heriting Our Mothers" Gardens , p. 149, 

48. Taped interview in August, 1989. 


Chapter IV 
The Lived Experience o-f White, Middle-Strata Feminist Presbyterian Clergywomen 

Introduction : As I mentioned in the introduction, I felt that it was 
extraordinarily important -for me to write this thesis in a way that reflected 
my own experience; however, I also wished to write on behalf of and from the 
perspective of other white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian clergywomen. 
These women are "my people" in a very significant way, and it is our 
experience that is central to this thesis. I felt very strongly that I .had to 
have a group to whom I was accountable in some significant way. In addition, 
I was convinced that feminist research and writing could not rightfully be 
done in isolation; therefore I wanted to find a way to have my work emerge out 
of the corporate group of women in which I am a participant. It was these 
women who could provide me with support as well as with information and 
correction as I worked on the thesis. As a result of these convictions, I 
invited a group of white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian clergywomen to 
meet with me to discuss some of the issues that pertained to my work. 

I selected 17 clergywomen, whom I knew and with whom I felt I could 
work, from whom I hoped I would get 10 to be in the group. They were all 
feminists who had political acumen in the Presbyterian Church and who were 
willing and able to give the time and energy necessary to be part of the 
group. Any combination of these 17 women would have been pleasing to me and 
would have worked. As it turned out, there were nine of us, including me. We 
mere quite a varied group even though we shared race, class, gender, political 
perspective, denominational identity, and occupation. We ranged in age from 
late ? 30s to late '60s. We had had diverse career experiences that included 
parish ministry, denominational staff work, church-related organizations. 

interim ministry, and campus ministry. We had served in all regions of the 
United States over the years of our ministries. We had been ordained as many 
as 25 years and as few as three or four years, although the one ordained for 
the fewest years had worked for many years on the national staff as a lay 
woman. Three of the women identified themselves as lesbians. Two were 
officially retired and one was on disability. Six had been married and three 
of those were divorced, none having remarried. 

Following their acceptance to be members of the group, they received a 
packet cf articles by feminist liberationists to provide a common base fpr our 
discussions when we gathered together. Also I sent out a series of questions 
which I wanted them to think about or even write some notes on before we came 
together. They would later respond to those questions in writing following 
our retreat. Both these questions and the ones used during the retreat were 
posed in order to elicit responses that would reflect the elements of Liberal 
Feminism and/or Feminist Liberation as defined in Chapter II. The questions I 
sent to them were as follow: 

1. Describe yourself right now in terms of where you are personally and 
interpersonal ly. What are your priorities? What are your burning 
issues 9 Where do you spend your energy 9 

2. What are the basic norms of your ethics? Have they changed much over 
the years? If so, in what way have they changed? 

3. What difference has your particularity (gender, race, class, age, 
sexual orientation, etc.) aade in your life and ministry? In what ways 
do you remind yourself of your particularity and value it, and in what 
ways do you avoid it and deny it? In what ways do you honor the 
particularity of others? 

4. What is your sense of vocation? How is your sense of vocation 
fulfilled in the work you do now (whether paid or not)? When has your 
sense of vocation been in conflict with your actual job? How did you 
experience this conflict? 

5. What were the stated and unstated assumptions about work in your 
family? How was worked viewed? Was it ever talked about? What work 


did your parents do? Do you know what your parents actually did on 
their jobs? If not, why not, and how did that shape your own attitude 
about work? 

6. What are your attitudes about work? If you had an absolute choice, 
not related to earning money, what would you most want to do? When you 
think of "workers," what is your image? In what ways are ministers 
similar to and different from other workers? 

7. Have there been significant shifts (shifts in paradigm or worldview) 
in your adult life, especially in the last 10-15 years? If so. describe 
these shifts and the impact they have had on you. 

8. What does the phrase, "Making the Connections," mean to you? How 
does it impact your life and ministry? 

9. Have you participated in civil disobedience? If so, what were .'the 
factors which influences you to do so? How did you understand your 
action? What impact did this experience have on your life in general? 
If not, what circumstances, if any, would compel you to participate in 
civil disobedience? 

10. In what ways in your life has the erotic/sensual/sexual been 
experienced as a source of creation/liberation/power? Are there ways in 
which the erotic, spiritual, and vocational have been linked in such a 
way in your life as to be empowering to you and others? Where have they 
been in conflict? Please describe. 

11. Where has liberalism been helpful and supportive of your feminism? 
Where have you experienced contradictions or conflicts within Liberal 
Feminism? Are there ways in which Liberal Feminism has prepared you. to 
move on to a. more radical analysis of the political dynamics you meet in 
the church or society? What risks might be involved in your embracing a 
more radical or a Feminist Liberation analysis? 

12- When you envision yourself 20 years from now, who do you see? How 
would you have liked to have spent your time and energy? What personal 
and societal issues will have received most of your attention? 

We finally came together in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 21-23, 

1989. (See Appendix J for the design.) We followed this design very closely, 

partly because our time together was relatively short. Some of the questions 

used for discussion sessions were similar or exactly the same as the ones 

included in the series of questions I asked the women to respond to in 

writings. The feel of the gathering was one of warmth, trust, cooperation and 


high energy. All of the women knew me, and most of the women knew at least 
one other woman in the group. The pace was exhausting, but complaints were 
few, even though two women were in physical pain. I could not have asked for 
or planned for a better group feeling and eager individual participation. 
Some talked more and some less, but I detected that that was a function of 
personality rather than feeling left out. As a matter of fact, everyone 
seemed to encourage everyone to participate. In some sessions, each person 
was directly asked to respond to a particular question in the whole group. I 
sensed little in the way of competition or serious conflict among us. I felt 
that ail the women were glad that they had come and some indicated that the 
experience was restorative. 

As already mentioned, I participated in the same way as any other member 
of the group except that I clarified the questions at the beginning of each 
session. I also recruited some of the women to help in taping the sessions, 
participating in the rituals, writing questions on newsprint, organizing the 
snacks, etc. Even though I had a lot to do, I felt very much supported and as 
though the responsibility weight of the retreat was shared. I did have to 
keep the overview in mind, but continual willingness to pitch in on the part 
of all of the others made the experience a joy. 

I had asked, prior to the retreat, that the clergywomen plan to have 
their written responses to the set of questions I had sent them earlier to «e 
by June 1st, and most responses got to me on time. Hy «ethod of gathering 
information from the clergywomen was inductive. I asked them a series of 
questions that I hoped would indirectly elicit responses reflecting their 
inclinations toward Liberal Feminism and/or Feminist Liberation. This chapter 
will reflect both the individual work done in writing and the corporate work 


done at the gathering in Louisville. I had hoped that we could do some 
further work by computer, but that did not seem to be feasible. 

Issues Reflected in the Corporate and Individual Work of the 
Clerqywomen ; When I had read over all of the material gathered in writing 
from members of the group and had the transcripts of all of the sessions of 
the retreat, I wrote up a statement of composite themes that seemed to emerge 
from the material as I read it. I also included some of my assumptions from, 
questions about, and responses to that work. It is that summary statement 
which is the base for this chapter. The categories I have chosen as sub- 
topics for this chapter reflect the material as it presented itself to me 
rather than the elements of Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation discussed 
in Chapter II. Still and all, there are interconnections between the sub- 
topics and those elements. Under each theme, I will describe the responses of 
the clergy-women and then make a brief analytical statement. In some cases I 
will pose some questions. 

Before I share that work, I wish to make clear two factors which had an 
impact on my interpretation of this material. First, I very much identify 
with these women. They are "my people" in a special way, and each has had her 
important impact on my journey as a white, middle-strata Presbyterian 
clergywoman. They are some of my closest colleagues, and my respect for them 
is profound. What I reflect in this chapter is built on my respect and 
affection for each of them and is not to be interpreted as a negative response 
to them as a group or as individuals. The frustration which is sometimes 
reflected in my comments is one I have had and continue to have with myself in 
my journey toward Feminist Liberation. Second, I have had a difficult time 
both keeping my sense of identification with these sisters while still 


acknowledging wherein I am in a different place -from the composite described 

here. For this reason I have not included myself in the description of the 

material unless clearly indicated. There are times I have used "we" in the 

analysis and questions when what I have written rings true for me at this 

point in time. I am deeply indebted to my colleagues for sharing with me 

experiences and stories, precious parts of their lives, which have been 

invaluable to me as I have worked on this thesis. 

1. Particularity and Privilege 

Description ; The acknowledging and affirming of their own 

particularities is one important way that these women have become able to 

accept, respect and honor the particularities of others. As a matter of fact, 

they seem to enjoy the richness and stimulation which such diversity brings. 

One woman describes it this way: 

1 value my particularity very highly. All I have to contribute to the 
world comes from what is unique about me. It is the lens through which 
I see the world. I neec to be conscious when I am acting out of that 
lens so I can honor the particularity of others and not harm them in the 
process. I am very much aware of the particularities of race, sex and 
sexual orientation... (Janelle) (1) 

This perspective is counter to the way in which many of them were brought up 

to value similarities and to attempt to blend into their significant groups. 

The result of this kind of upbringing can be seen in the admission of Lark: 

Most of my work is "business as usual" in a style that seeks to blend 
in. Mostly I do not know well any whose particularity is different from 
my own. I can work with a variety of people if the boundaries of work 
are already set; I am not able to create these opportunities. 

Some of the clergywoiaen have greater difficulty than others in grasping 
the concept of privilege, the advantage in power and status assigned to 
certain groups because of their racial, gender, age, class, professional, 


national identities and particularities. They are more able to understand the 
concept of privilege in those areas where they lack privilege than in those 
where they have privilege. However, even then it is a concept that some 
resist. During our gathering, I spent about half an hour trying to explain to 
Deborah why her physical disability was an issue o-f privilege. There seemed 
to be no way to explain it to her so that she could understand that those who 
were temporarily able-bodied had privilege she did not, for the time, have. 

Analysis ; Although these women have learned to embrace variety, -for some 
the impact of being "taught" to be like everyone else still lurks. On some 
level they have chosen to be different in that they are clergywomen, and they 
obviously value their own uniqueness and that of others. On another level, 
how to affirm and live with the difference of race, class, or sexual 
orientation is still a puzzle for most of them. 

I do not believe that the women's inability to grasp the concept of 
privilege was so surprising, because we humans do not tend to recognize easily 
the privilege we have unless it is pointed out to us by those who do not have 
it. It has been said that one reality of those with privilege is that they 
can remain ignorant of their privilege. Wherein we have power, status, or 
advantage because of our race, class, gender, etc., we tend not to realize it 
because it seems all so normal to us. However, I am somewhat surprised that 
this particular group of clergywomen is not any more aware of the concept of 
privilege than they are. 

I believe that this resistance to the concept of privilege among white, 
middle-strata clergywomen may very well be due to their race, class, national, 
and professional identities; all ones imbued with privilege. Privileges are 
the carrots used by society and its institutions to coopt us; to assure our 


co-operation with the way things are. If we have many privileges, we have 
•uch more to lose, by society's standards, if we challenge the carrot system 
by whi:h we have been rewarded. Ironically, it may be because we are 
generally so privileged in this society that we do not easily see our own lack 
o-f privilege when it exists. 

I also believe that many clerqywomen 7 s difficulty in grasping the 
reality of privilege comes from a tendency to see privilege only in terms of 
personal relationships (where power and status differentials do exist) rather 
than also in terms of interqroup dynamics. As a result, there is a tendency 
to focus on how they treat individuals who do not have the same race, gender 
or class privilege as they have, whether it is in the form of polite social 
interaction, tne assuring of job possibilities, or the election of persons of 
less privilege to public office. In reality, all of these efforts may make 
life a little better for everyone, but they will not make any measurable 
difference, for the power dynamics will remain the same. The social, 
economic, and political order will remain as it is. 

Quest ion : How do the structures of privilege impede our capacities to 
feel privileged and to see the power dynamics of our privilege? How can those 
structures of privilege be effectively challenged? 
2. Civil Disobedience 

Description : None of these women has been involved in Civil Disobedience 
(CD.), although all have commitments to justice and have taken actions of 
various types (marches, demonstrations, speeches, etc.) to express their views 
and advocacy. Some were open to doing CD. but felt that they had not been in 
the right place at the right time to participate in CD. while others saw it 
as a most serious step to be taken only as a last resort. Some feared that 


they would automatically go to jail or probably be treated violently if they 

did CD. Here are illustrations of the kinds of responses they gave: 

I r ve been in marches and demonstrations but not in civil disobedience 
per se, nor do I plan to be. I have no desire to go to jail. It is 
possible that something could compel me to civil disobedience, but I'm 
not sure what that would be. It would have to come as a deep conviction 
from within me, and I am not there yet. (River Woman) 

...I have marched and demonstrated, but I think I would be stretching 
the truth to say that what I have done has been civil disobedience. I 
would participate in civil disobedience to witness for women's rights, 
gay rights, racial equality, and peace. If I were in a situation where 
civil disobedience was being used for purposes in which I believed I 
would feel compelled to participate. (Dweller) 

I have a hard time with violence of any kind. It would take a lot. for 
me to put myself in the situation where I am voluntarily likely to 
experience violence. At the same time, I am very much concerned about 
the policies and practices which the country is following. I might 
engage in civil disobedience if I were convinced that it was part of a 
strategy which would bring about change. I feel that some of the civil 
disobedience activities can actually strengthen the system which people 
feel they are trying to defeat. (Janeile) 

...Even when I have felt strongly about an issue, I have not chosen that 
path.... I would have to be persuaded of the ultimate value of the 
disobedience before I could enter into such an activity. It seems to me 
that there are so many ways to make views known that only after all of 
tnose had been exhausted would I be able to take that final step. (Red. ! 

AnalyslE ; I find myself pondering whether these views may reflect a real 

hesitancy to break the law unless it is unquestionable that that is what 

should be done. It seems that some of the women may have some authority 

issues around this subject and that they want to know for sure that they are 

doing the right thing and that they will be successful in »aking societal 

changes. That seems very much like playing, "Mother, May I." I also find 

•yself wondering whether attitudes toward CD. nay be an indication of the 

level of radicalization which a person has reached. I say that thinking that 

those who seriously do contemplate and do decide to participate in CD. Bust 

have had some of their categories jarred because our society is such a "law 


and order" environment. To break the law intentionally requires questioning 
the authority of the law in our lives and our society. Still and all, I am 
aware that everyone is not meant to do CD. no matter how radical they are. 
3. S £ x u a 1 / Erotic / Sens u a 1 

Description : Most of the women could see the erotic/sensual as creative 
and liberating power in their lives and could connect it to their work/ 
vocation. For example, Virginia indicates that she experiences the power from 
her sexual/erotic/sensual self: "My sensual and sexual life is a source of 
liberation and creation often. My sense of who I am, as woman, created in 
God's image, leads me to being creative with ideas, with education, with 
people." A couple of the women felt that one of the most erotic experiences 
they had had involved intense and challenging mental engagement. However, 
some saw little or no connection between their work and the erotic, sensual 
and sexual. Lark makes this clear when she says, 

The erotic/sensual/sexual has not been perceived by me to be a source of 
creation/liberation/power except during my two pregnancies. I enjoyed 
those times. Otherwise, sexual issues have been divisive, distracting 
and destructive. The erotic — spiritual — and daily vocational concerns 
are disparate boxes without connection: that's how I have kept them out 
of conflict. My erotic and spiritual capacities are stronger now since 
I attended seminary (where I felt these qualities to be valued), but 
they are still underdeveloped, as is my private self in general. I'm 
about 12 years old. 

Analysis : I sensed in some of these women little comfort in their 

bodies. I was profoundly impressed by the reality that none of the 

heterosexual women reflected much sense of joy around their sexuality, and 

some actually shared that this was a problematic and painful area in their 

lives. Daisy, while pondering the question about how the 

sexual/erotic/sensual was a source of creation/liberation/power in her life, 

said to the rest of us: 


...The early part of my life, I was a singer and was very much aware of 
the erotic/sensual/sexual as a source of that. It was very much put 
together. It was a very -focused kind of experience. I have never found 
any experience like it at all. Ever since that time I have searched for 
some other way of expression. I never found one. There is nothing else 
that focuses everything, physical, emotional, oental and sexual. That 
has been a real loss for me. The other thing is that when I got my 
first dog, I could hug that dog and he loved it. That was a very- 
freeing experience. He was so important in that respect. That was 
after all those other losses. That physical expression was terribly 

Interestingly enough, the three lesbians in the group seemed to be more 

in touch with and joyous about their sexuality and saw it as a source of power 

in their lives and ministries. One of these women made this kind of 

integration clear when she wrote: 

I find that ray sexual orientation has been a real source of power for 
me. I feel that I am not so much a captive to the white male system 
because of my affiliation and affection for women. I do not have to 
compromise my ideas, beliefs or actions in order to be acceptable to 
men. I realize that they cannot give me what I need. I am grateful 
that women are also developing our own economic systems so we can 
further reduce our dependence on men. The church may perceive that 
there might be some conflict between my vocation and my erotic/sensual/ 
sexual life. I do not. I feel that God made me a whole human being and 
that I have the responsibility to be a good steward with how I express 
ay humanity. 
It is fascinating and paradoxical that the lesbians should feel so much at 

home with their sexuality despite the fact that they are oppressed in church 

and society because of their sexual orientation. 

Questions ; Could it be that the lesbians have been forced by their 

oppression to struggle more profoundly with the issues of their sexuality, 

thereby coming to the point of security and contentment in this area of their 

lives? In what ways is the experience of the sexual/erotic/sensual different 

for lesbians? 

4. Political Sense and Involvement 


Description : These women all have experience working in one of the most 
patr larchal institutions in our society, the church, and they nave learned a 
lot from that experience. Half of them began their ministries before they 
were feminists, in many ways unaware of the political dynamics of the church 
and the impact those dynamics would have on them and their ministries. I 
think that all of them, with possibly one exception, came to ordained ministry 
with liberal commitments, thinking that the system could be changed by 
incremental steps if they just knew the right formula. A good illustration of 
this effort was Ruby Fruit's description of the work she and others did on 
behalf of Church Employed Women: 

That reminds me of the time that Church Employed women asked 
permission to have input into the EEO/AA Plan of the United Presbyterian 
Church so we would be assured that women and racial ethnic persons would 
be guaranteed justice as employees in the UPCUSA. And we went and got a 
lesson from the guy who was in charge of the EEO/AA in Albany, New York. 
Then we flew out to Denver. It was the craziest thing I had ever done. 
We (Annette and I were the co-chairs of CEW. ) sat up until 2:30 a.m., 
and had to catch an 8:00 a.m. flight to Denver. When we got out to 
Denver, we realized that Leon had gone through and told us of every- 
place in the Presbyterian document that had to be changed. We 
discovered that the people we were talking to didn't know a damn thing 
about EEO/AA. As a result, we (the two of us) wrote the entire 
document. It was incredible. That was because we had people behind us, 
the small motley crew of Church Employed Women. The EEO/AA Committee 
made every single change that we proposed even though the document was 
pages long. They didn't know what had hit them because they didn't 
understand what they were doing. 

So often I think about the importance of being corporately 
involved and secondly not assuming that other people -know more than you 
do. Annette and I were not trying to trick this committee. We had just 
done our homework and knew our stuff.... But it shows what can be 
accomplished by just plain grit. Even though it took a hell of a lot of 
energy to go and learn all of that and then to go and explain it to 
others, that plan, as we wrote it, stood as the EEO/AA Program of the 
(JPCUSA for 10 years until the merger. 

In other words, the system could be made to work for them! It was only after 

a number of years of working in the church that »ost of them began to ask 

whether the system, as it was, would ever work for them without radical 


change. For example, the above EEO/AA Plan that Ruby Fruit helped to write, 

was completely undone with reunion between the UPCUSA and the PCUS. It shows 

how ephemeral the hard -fought -for accomplishments really were. Similar 

experiences have occurred in other liberation movements. 

Another important -factor missing in the thinking of several of these 

women is an adequate power analysis; therefore, they are sometimes forced to 

act naively and blindly, which hampers their effectiveness. Daisy gives an 

illustration of how the power dynamics of race and gender affected her 

deleteriously, some affects of which she still didn't understand: 

The congregation (she was the pastor) was unable to vote at a 
certain point whether or not to sell the church building. (In the middle 
of a large urban area where the property was worth millions) They had a 
deadline they had to make. The Strategy Committee of the Presbytery 
recommended that we go to the presbytery and ask permission to sell, 
pending the vote of the congregation. There was a Korean congregation 
meeting within the building. We had talked to the Korean congregation 
about building together within the new space which was proposed, but for 
the proposed owners, it became awkward and they said positively no 
building would be done inside the complex. Therefore, there was no 
longer an option to have any space; so the only option was to sell or 
not to sell. The Koreans immediately said, "You are the ones who got us 
to be Christians in the first place, now you owe us this space." Then 
they made us an offer for the building which was less than half of what 
it was worth. . . . 

When we went to the presbytery meeting, unfortunately, the elder 
from our congregation, who was chosen because of his ability to speak 
and reason, was not prepared and did a lousy job. When the Strategy 
Committee made its motion (to allow the congregation to sell the 
building on the open market), before the chairman even sat down, the 
Stated Clerk called upon the Koreans for their protest. In the 
■eantime, the Korean Staff person, who was the staff person for three 
presbyteries, got up and engaged "the «oderator in conversation. The 
Koreans demonstrated all down the aisle, all dressed up. The emotional 
people were asked to come and speak. Two Black men spoke. They had 
been asked to do this. They were the two most vocal. They both put on 
this show par excellance. They made several speeches. When I talked to 
C.G. later and I said, "What in the 'H' are you doing this for?" He 
said, "I don ? t even know what it is about. They just told me to get up 
and make a speech against it." The other thing that was very bad was 
the fact that they asked our session to come forward, and the only ones 
that would come down were the white women. All of the Blacks remained 
under the balcony. We had these two Black men, a bunch of Koreans, and 


white women, so of course we lost. 

They had been trying to resolve it (the issue o-f selling the 
building) -for 14 years. The first year 1 came, it was in December, and 
in June the building was condemned by the Presbytery. We went to work 
and did all the things we could do to rescue the Building until they 
made us an example to all the churches that were in the same boat. I 
think that is another reason why they shot us down, because we were a 
successful congregation by their standards and some of those folks 
couldn't stand it. They couldn't stand the success of the congregation. 
They couldn't stand the fact that we could have possibly gotten that 
much money (from the sale of the building). In our plans to sell the 
building, we had said how much we would give to the presbytery. 

After I resigned, I went all over the country (looking for a job). 
Nobody is going to touch a white woman who is 62 years old. I met,J.F. 
(a seminary professor) on the street one day. He said, "How are you 
doing?" I said, "Gee, I don't know when I am going to stop eating." He 
took out his wallet, handed me a. $20.00 bill and said, "I just want you 
to know that a lot of people wish they had the guts you have." Everyone 
said, "Don't resign." But it was the only way I had any energy left. 
That church was going to die for sure if I had stayed so I had to leave 
as soon as possible. 

Analysis : Somewhat surprisingly, we clergywomen choose to remain 

in the church even though we critique it, but few of us are really doing 

anything radical enough to bring about any real change. One factor that 

creates this contradiction is that, unlike our racial ethnic sisters, a 

hermeneutic of suspicion, complemented by a hermeneutic of hope, was not 

instilled in white, middle-strata women at an early age. We never knew deep 

within us that the patriarchal system wouldn't really work for us; therefore 

we never sought our hope in a new social order. We have been led to believe 

that if we are just "nice" and take the advice of those in power, the old 

system will finally work for us. Even those of us who know intellectually 

that this premise is false have a hard tine leaving that hope behind in order 

to take action consistent with our knowledge. 

Questions : How can the hermeneutics of suspicion and of hope be 

cultivated in white, middle-strata clergywomen before we get disillusioned 


and/or destroyed by the system? Why have we been so resistant to a power 
analysis of the dynamics we find in the church? 
5. Personal and Communal Issues 

Description : The clergy-women with whom I met all have some sense of the 
importance of community, especially when it comes to counting on other women, 
particularly feminists, for support and nurturing. However, what seems to be 
•issing for some of them is auch mention of their capacity and/or inclination 
to collaborate and strategize with other women when it comes to political 

However, most are aware that working with others in a corporate 

''conspiracy" would be much more effective politically, and some can point to 

experiences which prove that point. Deborah points out how working witn just 

one other woman helped as the two of them worked to bring about change in 

their presbytery; 

In 19/0 in our presbytery we were trying to get the issue of women 
before the presbytery as a priority. The first task was getting women 
on the docket and then keeping them there. It came down to myself and 
one other woman sitting on a Long Range Planning Committee. We simply- 
refused to go home every time we had a meeting until we were back on the 
docket. But, it took at least two of us. If either of us was sick, we 
called each other so fast. We had to be there even if we were sick. So 
the corporate starts with two. Later we had a great task force because 
we had more numbers. But whether it was two or many, it was collective. 
I really believe it is very i«portant. 

They seem, however, to have very little sense of a community to which they are 

accountable, and this say be related to their lacking a sense of who their 

people are. They seem to share with aany other white, aiddle-strata women the 

assumption that all people are their people, which is a false premise. It 

•eans, in effect, that they have no real sense of a particular people. 


Many of these women have worked very hard -For justice within the church 

and the world, to the point of burnout for some. All indicate a need for 

spiritual renewal and for time and energy to work on their own self-esteem and 

self-actualization. Still and all, the focus on personal growth does not seem 

to mean isolation from others, for their concern for building relationships 

with family, friends, colleagues and co-conspirators seems to be of prime 

importance to them. They see their own personal growth very much related to 

their desire for, commitment to and work on justice. Virginia shows this kind 

of integration of the political and personal when she images herself 20 years 

from now: 

I will have continued to be involved in justice issues and have spent 
time continuing my own growth, my relationships, and my vocation. I 
would probably have lost my mother and so will have spent energy dealing 
with her estate and moving on without her. She has been a very- 
accepting, supporting parent/friend, and I will miss her. I would hope 
the church is more open to those "cast-out" — the poor, disenfranchised, 
gay and lesbian, etc. 

Analysis ; I am not sure whether the difficulty these women have in 

working together politically is due to a sense of competition with other women 

or whether it is a reflection of the dislike many women have of other women. 

The former tendency is reinforced by the individualism advocated within 

liberalism and within the white, middle-class U.S. society. Lark points to 

the role of competition in her life: 

I grew up with the notion that if I had it, that it wasn't necessarily 
true that other people had it also. There wasn't enough to go around. 
It wasn't a case of my being able to honor other people's, let's say, 
academic ability, if I had academic ability. It was always competition. 
I was terribly programmed with a competitive kind of affect. If there 
was a shortage of it, we couldn't all be honored. I don't know whether 
that fits for anybody else or not. I hear about this collaboration that 
we women have always had, but competitiveness was the name of the game 
for me. 



The latter tendency may reflect internalized oppression through which a voice 

within us undervalues our sisters and us, as women, making effective 

collaboration difficult. E>weller reflects her own early dislike of women, 

which she has worked to counter in her adult years: 

In seminary, I did not experience sisterhood, but I really experienced 
the hope, the description, the body of literature, the poets, the 
awareness of a worldwide group of women who know each other. I 
graduated from college in 1972. So my adulthood in the '70s was a 
success as judged by male models.... By many of those standards, I was 
relatively successful. I got all the right recommendations for seminary 
and the kind of life experience that got me a good amount of support in 
seminary. I didn't like women very much. Partly I didn't like that I 
had grown up a female and knew that it was a disadvantage. ... The 
seminary experience itself did not do a lot of bridging, but it really 
got my expectations up. It got me living with God attitudes and 
language attitudes about myself and being a woman, getting some of that 
in place in a real life-giving way. 

6. Ethical Norms 

Description : What really surprised me was that in responding to the 

question regarding the bases of their ethical norms, many of the women 

reflected that their ethical norms hadn't changed throughout their lives. In 

some cases, they feel that the expression of those norms or their 

understanding of what those norms require has changed — but not the essence of 

the norms. 

We can see this attitude in River Woman's response: 

The basic norms of my ethics haven't changed much over the years: treat 
others respectfully; share what I have; put my weight on the side of 
justice, tty awareness of what all that means specifically has changed 
as I have become more aware of what the other person considers 
respectful, for example. I'm learning to listen and to question my 
assumptions. I also see that respect has to be extended to all of 

Daisy echoes this notion: 

Norms of my ethics: My parents' example, 10 Commandments, Jesus' 
teachings. They haven't changed much. 


I have a sense of my ethical norms having changed drastically over the years, 

so this phenomenon is puzzling to me. Dweller comes the closest to re-Fleeting 

my experience o-f changing norms when she writes: 

Yes, my basic ethical norms have changed radically. From "Do unto 
others what you want done unto you" to something like this: "Find out 
■first what the other persons want; believe it or not, they may not want 
what I want! Then consider if I can help them achieve their desires. 
And then treat them as they want to be treated. 

Analysis : I have struggled with whether this lack of change and/or the 
lack o-f the awareness o-f such change mean that these women have not reflected 
much on this issue or that they have not been challenged to change or thfat 
what I think of as change is not at the base level. To say that my ethical 
norms have not changed would be (for me) the same as saying that my faith has 
not changed for 50 years. I have often thought such a statement about faith 
was a sign of immature faith development. However, knowing these women, I Go 
not think of them as immature ethically. Still it would seem that until one 
is willing and able intentionally to question one's ethical norms in a 
profound way, one is not ready to change one's deepest attitudes and take 
radical political risks. 

Questions : Could this lack of change have anything to do with their 
level of radicality? What enables women to take the risk of making changes in 
their ethical norms? Who benefits from the lack of change in ethical norms? 
7. Paradigm Shifts 

Description : Host of the wo»en are aware of significant shifts in their 
lives brought on by traumas in their personal or career lives, recovery 
process, living outside the U.S., identifying as feminists and/or lesbians, 
etc. Janelle describes how her recovery process in relation to alcoholism was 
an experience of paradigm shift for her: 


There has been a major worldview shift in the past -five years in uy 
lite. The experience centers around my getting sober. I -feel that I am 
more open to my own experience and those experiences o-f others. 
Previously, I -functioned in the world by using my intellect aione. Now 
I am open to my feelings, what they tell me and how to interact more 
humanely with others, hy work is more effective now that I am more open 
to my feelings. I am certainly having more fun. 

Some see the result of such shifts as being cataclysmic in the sense of 

turning their worlds upside-down while others see them having a profound, but 

more subtle, impact. They have a sense that their openness to such paradigm 

shifts and willingness to take the risks involved depend on a number of 

factors within and external to themselves. 

One factor that has enhanced their chances of experiencing such shifts 

is being a part of a community that encourages such openness and risk-taking 

and in which radical changes in one's life are not considered unusual or 

weird. They also feel that such shifts happen in people's lives when the old 

ways have stopped workings so a. susceptibility to new alternatives/options is 

created. River Woman shows how she came to a real shift when ner old ways of 

looking at an issue became futile: 

I have to tell you a. little of the history first. When our 
denominations were reuniting, some of us women in the Atlanta Office 
would get together and try to figure out where we were in the midst of 
all this. What were our dreams and visions for the future of the 
denomination. We never really got any clarity about that. Although we 
got clear about some of our values, we couldn't ever get clarity about 
how those values could be played out in the new structure. One of the 
jokes we had going at that time was about the little kid who is 
shoveling shit out of a barn and shoveling like his life depended on it. 
A passerby said, "What are you doing?" The little kid said, "I know 
there is a pony in there somewhere." That is the analogy me had of what 
was going on. The pony was not materializing. I did, a long time 
later, end up finding the pony. I suddenly got this, probably a simple 
insight but for me a world-shifting, insight; that the pony was me and 
each of my sisters. The shift that it made in my life is that, that is 
what I've been working on ever since. That feels right, it feels on 
target. Trying to find a pony out there only leads to frustration. 

Once I started realizing the pony was in each one of us, the God 
Spirit or whatever you want to call it, and started living with that 


reality, my life is different. It is different on & daily basis. In 
the things that I think are important. My faith is not in our political 
systems or in the structures or the institutions we live with anymore. 
I think a lot of my life, it was. But now my faith is in the God Spirit 
in each one of us. That means I spend a lot of my time in prayer, in 
reflection, in meditation and in journaling. My focus is not on what do 
I need to do when something happens, but on what do I need to 
understand. What is going on? Not rushing into some activity just to 
be busy, or just to have something to do. The difference it has made is 
a very personal one that impacts whatever I do. 

Another factor that supports such shifts is a strong sense of self- 
esteem, because the person feels that she is a person for whom it is worth 
taking risks. Also having a grounded sense of what one feels called to do 
gives one the kind of confidence, serenity and staying power needed in a time 
of such shifts. Facing death-rendering realities, whether physical or 
emotional, seems to jar the categories that are central to the very being of a 
person. Suddenly what was fear-provoking loses its power, and one's whole 
sense of reality changes. The question is what it takes for us to realize 
that the potential for death on this side of the chasm is probably worse than 
the death that might happen when we take the leap of change. 

The women also identified some factors that block them from embracing 
opportunities for such paradigm shifts. One is an inordinate need for 
acceptance, so some women continue to do things and live their lives as they 
think others want them to. They may be discouraged from paradigm shifts by- 
current relationships or by tapes resulting from past relationships, which may 
have been running for years and which tend to control their behavior. For 
example, one woman said that she had to have conversations with the fearful 
little child within her who tends to prevent her from taking risks. 

They also felt that the social institutions of this society keep things 
as they are by controlling any "deviant" behavior, thereby discouraging any 


stepping out of line. Being geographically isolated -from other -feminists or 

being clobbered in the power struggles among women can both mitigate any 

tendency toward risk-taking. Having too sheltered a life can work against the 

probability that one will move out away from one's own reality because there 

is nothing to motivate taking the risks involved in such change. Virginia 

reflects such an experience during her growing up years: 

I am pondering on your talking about growing up knowing you couldn't 
trust anybody. I grew up trusting everything. My parents were honest. 
My Dad in the '50s was walking in marches. That in itself encourages me 
to do whatever I want to do. I think that it has also hindered me in 
seeing the truth. My Dad died just after I graduated from college. My 
involvement in the church and the sins that I saw are not anything I 
could ever talk with him about. He also saw those. It wasn't until I 
was at Union that I began to say to myself, "I can be responsible for 
determining what I see in the world, and I don't have to just take what 
I have been told." It was tnen when I first started learning. 

Lastly, fear is a block to risk-taking, especially when there are observable 

reasons for being fearful, such as threats to one's life and well-being. 

Analysis : These clergywomen seem to be able to articulate what creates 

the psychic atmosphere in which they are blocked or enhanced in making 

paradigm shifts. However, I believe that most of them seem to be blocked from 

making what I would call significant shifts. The kinds of shifts mentioned by 

some of the group gathered in Louisville were changes that take place as a 

normal flow of life rather than worldview shifts, which tend to be experienced 

as an overthrow of one's way of looking at and interpreting events in one's 

life. For example, Daisy mentions the following as paradigm shifts: 

Shifts in the past 10-15 years: Was ordained, left "475" (National 
Headquarters of UPCUSA) , and took churches which required more self- 
starting and self-governing. In my last congregation there was no 
■team" to be part of, and I missed that dreadfully. 

Red also reflects this less dramatic understanding of paradigm shift: 

Probably the most significant shift in paradigm for roe is my 
understanding of alternative. Graduating from college in 1961, I could 


picture very clearly the world in which I expected to live and work. My 
role and those of my -friends and neighbors could be easily identified, 
and we all fit into that picture. Before I completed seminary in 1964 
that had begun to shift. Women no longer were preparing to work 
"someday". They were now charting their own life course. Gradually 
those old role identities have been erased. Now I have few expectations 
as I encounter others because each life and lifestyle has to be seen 
separately. The effect of this shift has been to become more curious, 
more open, »ore able to hear what others are saying. 

Others mentioned shifts in their lives that I would associate with significant 

worldview changes, such as those brought on by becoming sober, identifying 

oneself as feminist and/or lesbian, or going through a transformation of one's 

theological perspective. Even with these significant shifts, there seems to 

be a block to acting out of that new place in ways that contribute to the 

bringing in of a new social order. As a matter of fact, there is little or no 

mention of structures when considering paradigm shifts. 

Questions ; What are the ways in which the blocks to paradigm shifts or 
to the resulting trans-format ion can be reduced in clergywomen' s lives? In 
what ways can the risks associated with such change be off-set and superceded 
by the risks of staying in the society and church as they are? How can 
clergywomen learn to incorporate the structural and systemic into their 
understanding of paradigm shifts? 
8. Global Sense 

Description ; It was striking to »e that any mention by the clergywomen 

of the global situation seemed to be tangential to other considerations, with 

a couple of clear exceptions. One of those exceptions was Dweller's strong 

commitment to doing something about the situation in the Middle East: 

...I said that there were two things I was willing to work on in 
retirement. One was the Middle East, specifically, Palestinian and 
Israeli Resolution.... 

But even Dweller, after this brief aside, goes on to talk about building 


r el at ion ship s with her -family and her work on AIDS rather than expand in g on 
her work on the Middle East. It seems as if those who do take notice of tne 
global scene -find themselves overwhelmed with more immediate concerns in their 
own homes and in this nation. 

Analysis : This omission of the global nay have been due, in part, to the 
type o-f questions I asked, but as I examined the questions, it seemed as i-f 
there would have been ample opportunity to re-flect global concerns. It is 
interesting that one of my consultants to this thesis said that she felt that 
the only way that white, middle-strata clergywomen from the U.S. could be 
truly radicalized and moved into a Feminist Liberation commitment and analysis 
was by spending time in the "Third World". I resisted that notion, at first, 
even though spending a lot of time in Latin America has had that very impact 
on me. I think that spending a lot of time with the poor in this country 
might have the same impact. However, it would be easier to return to one's 
safe, middle-strata zone while still here in tne U.S. It may be that we have 
to be out of the radius of the white, middle-strata, U.S. mentality in order 
to be free to make the kind of radical shifts needed in our lives so as to 
move more completely toward Feminist Liberation. After our gathering. Dweller 
went on a trip to the Middle East, and I asked her to reflect on how the trip 
had impacted her life and ministry. She responded: 


In '48, '49 & '50 I could «ake a clear distinction between being 
Anti-Zionist and Anti-Semitic. I no longer can. I now must be very- 
sensitive to and very supportive of the historically caused fears and 
insecurities of my Jewish brothers and sisters both here and in Israel. 
AND I must also speak and act to oppose the policies and behaviors of 
the State of Israel that not only deny Liberation but also seek to 
destroy another people - the Palestinians. And I MUST help U.S. 
Christians not to equate the secular political state of Israel with the 
fulfillment of Biblical prophecy - even when others do. 

For several years now, the voices of Christians in Lebanon, Syria, 

i nn 

and Israel-Palestine have rung in my ears: "Are you with us? You have 
•forgotten ue« What are you going to do'?'!- The Great Liberator calls US 
to be in solidarity with the "forgotten faithful.™ May bod -forgive us ; 

Question : Could it be that we can more clearly see the impact o-f the 
dynamics o-f domination in settings that aren't so -familiar to us and in which 
we are not so enmeshed? 
9. Making the Connections 

Description : When I asked the question about making connections, I left 

it open-ended so I would get a "word association" response. However, the 

phrase did have associations for me related to seeing the connections arrrong 

the various oppressions and the need for building coalitions among persons and 

groups working on various issues. What is interesting is that two of the 

women had no associations with the phrase at all while a couple of others 

responded out of a more personalistic place with comments such as, "We connect 

ourselves to the Creator God and to one another as sisters and brothers in 

faith." (Red) Some combined the personal and the political nature of this 

phrase. They were apt to mention making connections between women, seeing 

themselves as part of all creation, or seeing connections between what is 

happening here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Only two women 

seemed to see the relationship of the phrase to systemic change. Virginia 

responded in this way: 

Making the connections means making sure I have women friends who help 
•e connect with myself and with them; aeans using whatever systems to 
which I have access, Beans making sure I connect with God's people who 
are hurting or suffering from injustices. 

Analysis : I believe that the reason that "Making the Connections" does 

not have a lot of immediate Meaning for «any clergywoaen is because they do 

not have a real sense of community from which they move out into society. 

They also do not have much of a power analysis; therefore they do not see that 
there are connections among the oppressions which they and others experience. 
The sources may be the same -for all o-f the oppressive and dominating systems 
which they encounter in their lives. Without a sense o-f community and a power 
analysis o-f their institutional relationships, a term such as "Making the 
Connections" could have only very personal and private meanings. 

Questions : Why is it so hard -for white, middle-strata clergywomen to see 
the political implications o-f our lives and ministries? Is it because we are 
overwhelmed by the responsibility which comes with that level o-f 
consciousness? Are we blocked because we think we have to do it all alone 
rather than as a part of a community? Why is it so hard for us to make the 
connections; cognitive, emotional and political? Why do so many of us have 
little or no awareness of the power dynamics that are so key in our lives? 
10. Sense of Vocation 

Description : Most of the women articulated a sense of vocation, and 
several saw it as central to the work they do. Some see work/vocation as an 
instrument for personal fulfillment, for making contributions to society and 
for doing justice. There were two who understood vocation as not related to 
their work, one of whom lost her sense of vocation through the treatment she 
received in the church. Daisy recounts her experience in this way; "I have 
no sense of vocation. I had a strong one until I was fired from the national 
staff in 1973." She regained that sense of vocation in serving two churches, 
but then lost it again in the last church she served before retirement. 

On the other hand, there was one woman who had no sense of vocation 
apart from her job in the church. She goes on to say that "job satisfaction 
and vocational commitment have meant the same thing in my adult work life. 


Insofar as I am interested, challenged, and growing in the work I do, then I 

determine to stay." (Lark) Another mentioned that she -felt that each person 

has a vocation which is God given and that she -feels that it is a real shame 

that clergy are often perceived to be the only ones having a sense of 

vocation. She feels that this is a real perversion of the theology o-f 

vocation. (Dweller) 

Some -felt that their sense o-f vocation had never been in conflict with 

their jobs while others had had painful conflicts between the two. They were 

in work settings in which their vocation could not be expressed. Virginia 

wrote about such an experience: 

My sense of vocation was in conflict with a position I had in Illinois 
where most of my work was not accepted by my colleague. He was very 
threatened (by me? by life in general?), and I met many closed doors. I 
experienced this conflict with anger, frustration, new learnings about 
myself, and clearer expectations of positions for the future. 

Some have a real sense of being betrayed by the church, as well as becoming 

aware that they have been duped by their own illusions about the church. 

Analysis ; What is amazing to me, knowing the painful career experiences 
some of these women have had, is why they have a continuing sense of vocation 
or call. Several of them mentioned that in the future they might not stay in 
church employment or remain ordained. It was unclear to me what would 
determine their decisions around this issue. I face the same issue, and I 
cannot answer it. We clergyworoen seem to be able to articulate the 
possibility of leaving the church, but not process it or act upon it. It may 
be that because we often operate from an individualistic place, we can only 
see our leaving the church as our own personal failure. 

Questions : Why do we remain in the church as ninisters? If we were to 
become more radicalized, would we stay? Is this an illustration of an 


addiction to an organization? Is it the perversion of commitment? Or is it 

appropriate stick-to-it iveness and commitment to the struggle? How does one 

evaluate whether one's continuing involvement in the ministry is a sign o-f 

health or illness? 

11. Liberal Feminism 

Description : These women saw the values o-f Liberal Feminism with its 

-focus on the individual's value, development and rights had been help-ful in 

opening employment doors -for them. They also said that Liberal Feminism had 

moved them toward a clearer understanding o-f the political realities they 

-faced and toward a commitment to struggle -for women's rights. Some felt that 

within Liberal Feminism were found the seeds of Feminist Liberation, but they 

tended to resist the radical implications o-f Feminist Liberation. The writing 

of Lark illustrate this point of view best: 

Liberalism, in so far as it encourages individuals to develop their 
potential, has pushed me along on the feminist road. It has taught me 
to look for systems and how persons operate in those systems. It has 
given me space to move and grow and blessed my private pursuits. 
Liberalism only goes so far; it uses up a lot of time and energy. I shy 
away from radical analysis; I avoid conflict. I back down if someone 
disputes my beliefs. 

They also recognized the limitations and contradictions found in Liberal 

Feminism, such as a worldview based on the assumption that the experience o-f 

some people, namely, those who are white and middle-strata, is normative. 

They recognize a general disregard in Liberal Feminism for the experience of 

women who are racial ethnic, poor, disabled, etc. Dweller tells how her 

liberal views had to be corrected by her racial ethnic sisters: liberalism certainly supported my feminism. However, it took my 
Black sisters and my Native American sisters and my Hispanic sisters and 
some Asian sisters to teach me my blindness to my own racism, classism, 
and even my oppression o-f others. Third World Women also spoke 
vigorously about Western Women's failure to hear their/our Third World 
sisters and to work for the liberation of ALL women in ways and on terms 


that have meaning to and for women of each national group, race, class, 
age, sexual orientation, and marital status. ... the greatest risk -for me 
now is that I may have to give up some o-f my creature comforts as well 
as some of my remaining prejudices. 

A couple of women felt that they and others had been hurt and rejected 

by Liberal Feminists whose definition of feminist didn't include them. One 

woman felt that Liberal Feminists had a tendency to use patriarchal methods in 

order to make an impact on the system, and in the process hurt their sisters. 

Red expressed these hurts clearly: 

Within Liberal Feminism I have experienced some of my deepest hurts. It 
was a Presbyterian clergywoman who asked me why didn't I become a '.'real" 
minister when I was feeling excitement and satisfaction with my ministry 
as a. church educator. (None of the men ever asked me that!) Liberal 
Feminists seem to me to have adopted all too often the male system in 
order to make a dent. The problem is that much of the valuable feminist 
outlook gets lost in the process.... 

However, another woman stated that it was often the Liberal Feminists who 

early on named the oppression of sexism and pointed out the need for advocacy 

for women in both church and society. It is a. mixed bag from the standpoint 

of these clergy women. 

Analysis : It is not clear to me how much these women have moved from 

Liberal Feminism (toward Feminist' Liberation) although they can critique it. 

It seems as if they can perceive how "those Liberal Feminists" failed in 

certain ways, but they do not tend to question where they now stand on the 

political spectrum or the impact it has on their lives *nd ministries. They 

have moved intellectually, but it hasn't yet seemed to have made much of a 

difference in their actions. Janelle reflects the most awareness of moving to 

a new place when she writes: 

Initially I found my liberalism was supportive of my feminism. I was a 
liberal in my political life long before I was a feminist. My liberal 
attitudes became a logical extension into my feminism. Now I feel there 
is a discontinuity between my liberalism and my more radical political 
analysis. I am not sure how I crossed the bridge. I feel that I am in 


a new place. Perhaps it happened when I began to see how what this 
country did affects other countries and vice versa. I also see how my 
individual actions have a collective effect. This new awareness may 
have contributed to the change. 

12. Feminist Liberation Theology 

Description : These ciergywomen were, on the whole, very supportive of 
Feminist Liberation Theology and saw it as changing their way of thinking . As 
a matter of fact, they affirmed in our gathering most of what they see as 
central to Feminist Liberation Theology: moving from incremental change to 
revolutionary change, being more aware of particularities and privilege, 
seeing things from a global perspective, asking the structural questions'; 
needing to work within community, raising the issues of power, power lessness 
and authority, acknowledging the economic issues and becoming aware of the 
poor, making the connections, asking the difficult questions, etc. 

Analysis : What is interesting, however, is that when these women are 
writing their own responses to my questions, they do not mention many of these 
themes while describing their ideas, lives and ministries. It is almost as 
though they need to be reminded or supported by the presence of the group to 
bring these commitments to mind. 

Indeed, they are clear about the liberation project, but this theology 
does not seem to permeate the essence of their lives and ministries: it is not 
compelling them to new action, haybe, as is typical of Presbyterians, they 
are able to study and digest the ideas in Liberation Theology, but it doesn't 
seem to make ouch difference in their everyday lives. There are a few notable 
exceptions, some of which I alluded to earlier. It is almost as if they have 
been inoculated to resist the radical implications of Feminist Liberation 
Theology in their lives. 


Questions : Does their liberal upbringing have anything to do with that 
resistance? Do their places of privilege keep them in line even though they 
are drawn to Feminist Liberation? In what way might they be encouraged to 
choose to be infected with the lively virus of Feminist Liberation so that it 
would become a significant motivator to radical action in their lives and 
13. Envisioning the Future 

Description : I asked this question (#12) in order to gain some sense of 

the hopes and dreams o-f these women unencumbered by the limitations o-f the 

present. Some of them lifted up the financial and physical limitations which 

they would face as they got older, but always there was the determination to 

be as active as possible in their living. They exhibited the desire to grow 

personally while still remaining committed to building and nurturing 

significant relationships and to doing justice in a variety of endeavors, such 

as women, economic justice, AIDS, Middle East, health care and ecology. 

Dweller's statement during our gathering indicates the intermingling of the 

variety of aspirations revealed in the group: 

...In 20 years from now I will not be the 91 year old, but I will be 
less than 1 1/2 years from being 90. I do not plan to be in a 
wheelchair. I plan to be more active, «ore physically able than I am 
now, with more energy. In preparation for retirement, I said that there 
were two things that I was willing to work on in retirement. One was 
the Middle East, specifically, Palestinian and Israeli resolution and 
the other one was AIDS. People keep asking me to work on woaen's 
issues. I say I have been there.... I really am not going to get pulled 
off in that direction, but I couldn't stay away from the March on 

My vision of 20 years from now, really keys into and supports some 
of the things that I am hearing and reading about a more holistic 
future, rather than the doomsday sayers. , I really want to go with that. 
I want to energize that in «y own personal life and in the society and 
in political dimensions. I have been working on reconnecting, and I am 
planning to continue the reconnecting with persons. Family is where I 
started first. I just had been working so hard and investing myself in 
other ways. Reconnecting is an important concept for »e. Reconnecting 


is not only external, but it is also internal. 

So much o-f the time there is this internal conflict and this 
internal split between what might be called, in some words, the 
esoteric, in other words out of the spiritual, internal, meditation, all 
of these kinds of things. Then there is this more political activist 
side of me. ... Instead of being holistic and integrating, I continue to 
find them in opposite directions. 

I don ? t know in 20 years whether I will be in the church. I guess 
20 years from now I am not sure whether the church will be. I really 
have a holistic vision.... I will continue to work on the societal 
problems that I see. AIDS is certainly one of the aost painful. 
Somehow I see, in 20 years from now, some of that. I see mclusiveness 
in the Church, I see healing, I see inclusiveness in society.... 

I dorrt know where I'll be in personal relationships. Freedom is 
very important for me. Whether Rob and I are together, that is 
something I will continue to work on and have worked on repeatedly.. 
There is no virtue in staying married 50 years. Twenty years from now 
our older birth grandson will, by then, either have restored his life in 
some way or he will be a lifer, incarcerated, and too personally 

I see a better world 20 years from now, and I am going to do 
whatever I can to help make it. At times I think, "My God, I have been 
here before. Is it worth the effort?" Being here this weekend, I'll 
give it another try. 

Analysis ; On the whole, these women see the next 20 years as ones with 
the potential ior self-awareness and spiritual growth, increased energy, 
freedom frorri some of the present restrictions of employment and family 
responsibilities, and a world which is more peaceful and liberative. A time 
to do wild and crazy things: The question is whether these women will become 
more radicalized within the next 20 years; if so, they could be real leaders 
in bringing about significant and radical change in both the church and 

Questions : How will Feminist Liberation Theology get acted out in their 
lives?" What kinds of notivation and support will they need? 
Conclusion : As I aentioned in the introduction, I had drawn this group 
together thinking that they certainly would deaonstrate the journey from 
Liberal Feminism to Feminist Liberation, however tentative. Well, it is even 


more tentative than I thought it would be. I believe that this group of 
clergywomen was decidedly made up of Liberal Feminists, most of whom are not 
intentionally moving toward Feminist Liberation. When consulting with Ann 
DuBois, whose job (on the national staff) it is to work with women employed by 
the Presbyterian Church, I asked her i-f she could think o-f another 
constellation of white, middle-strata feminist Presbyterian clergywomen that 
would have been more geared to Feminist Liberation. She indicated that she 
did not believe such a constellation existed. In other words, this group was 
representative as a "progressive group of feminists." Certainly there are 
glimpses of Feminist Liberation in the inclinations of these women, but they 
are few and far between. It is because of these conclusions that I have 
decided to use this material to reflect the Liberal Feminist experience that 
clergywomen, including myself, have had since the early "70s. It will be the 
task of this thesis to see how to move all of us more intentionally toward 
Feminist Liberation. 



1. Assumed names have been taken by the women to protect their identities. I 
have also sightly modified material, at points, so as to make it less obvious 
who is speaking. However, I have been faithful to the original meaning of the 
written or spoken statements. 


Chapter V 
Resistances to Feminist Liberation 

Feminist Liberation is sc attractive to me that I often wonder why we 
white, middle-strata F'resbyter ian clergywomen resist it or have trouble 
embracing it. (1) It has been a real puzzle to me, as I have reflected back on 
■y life and career, why it has taken me so long to incorporate Feminist 
Liberation into my being and doing. In this chapter I want to reflect on my 
own experience of struggling to move toward Feminist Liberation, on the 
insights offered by my clergysisters, both white women and women of color, by 
lay national staff women, and on the writings of other feminist authors. 
These resources may help us to understand how we get tangled up in our 
attraction-avoidance relationship with Feminist Liberation. I will also 
suggest ways in which we can respond creatively to those resistances to 
Feminist Liberation. 

1. Fear : One of the greatest blocks to Feminist Liberation is fear. 

Fear can come in many forms, such as 1) withdrawal reaction to rapid change 

and/or to tremendous cognitive dissonance; 2) dread of economic loss resulting 

from underemployment or unemployment because of being perceived as radical; 

3) anxiety that comes from possible rejection by the general public or the 

even more painful rejection by persons close to us; 4) the sense that we will 

become crazy not only in the minds of those who reject us but also in our own 

self-perceptions; and 5) our concern that Feminist Liberation will lead 

directly or indirectly to our premature deaths. Heyward spoke to some of 

these fears when I asked her, during our interview, what would block her from 

moving to embrace Feminist Liberation more completely: 

The main thing holding me back has been my own fear... of being 
killed. I also fear that when I am myself, doing what I really believe, 
I wind up alone; a fear that no one understands, that I am going to be 

perceived as crazy. .. .that even my sisters will -finally have had it and 
think that I've -flipped out. One o-f my -fears is that there won't be 
anyone there in the end. Then there is this terrible -fear that I a_m 
crazy, that I have imagined it all. 

Fear is a well internalized force.... As long as tear can be 
sustained, who needs police, or prisons? Fear comes with our mothers" 
milk — -fear o-f going too -far, and o-f being too much, too radical, too 
passionate. ... And our -fears aren't paranoid.... 

How do we begin to address these -fears so that we are able to embrace Feminist 

Liberation? Ignoring our fear or denying it is not the answer. Our fear 

must be faced. Audre Lorde reflects on how her fear diminished when she was 

faced with cancer: 

In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of 
what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, 
priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, 
and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been 
afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or 
death. But we ail hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and 
pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final 
silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for 
whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed 
myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited 
for someone else's words. And I began to recognize a source of power 
within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most 
desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a. perspective gave 
me great strength. 

I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had 
ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence 
will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt 
I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, 1 
had mace contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a 
world in which we all believed, bridging our differences. And it was 
the concern and caring of all those women which gave me strength and 
enabled me to scrutinize the essentials of my life. (2) 

Lorde' s words made a great impression on me. They helped me understand that 

the possibility of death on this side of the chasm of self-revelation and 

political commitment was much greater than the potential death on the other 

side. I had to take the leap — in my case to end my silence as a lesbian 

clergywoman. What would ay silence aean if I preserved my life while losing 

my soul? Our fears need to be faced and named in the presence of others. 


We cannot -fly while still incarcerated in the cocoons of -fear manufactured by 
the systems o-f this world, including the church, which silence us. 

2. Liberal Ideology : Another cause o-f our resistance to Feminist 
Liberation is the overwhelming impact o-f the liberal ideology that controls 
much of our thinking and living in this country. I have described Liberal 
Feminism in Chapter II. I believe that many of the elements of Liberal 
Feminism reflect ways in which feminism has absorbed and manifested the 
liberal ideology and has been co-opted by this ideology. When I speak of 
ideology in this way, I am defining it in basically negative terms, as .■ 
expressed by William Kennedy: 

...Since its introduction into Western discourse in the period of 
the French Revolution, "ideology" has been an ambiguous term. It refers 
to the process by which every human being internalized a basic 
understanding of the world from growing up in a particular 
society. ... the process is largely an unconscious one. Persons "breathe 
in" the framework by which they interpret their world and their 
experience. The symbolic structure of the mind is not freely chosen, 
but is inherited and appropriated through the institutionalization of 
symbols. . . . 

Ideology, then is deformation of truth for the sake of social 
interest. Baum identifies it with the collective blindness, the 
corrupting religious trends that emerge to protect the community against 
hostile forces and in defense of its power elites ( Religion and 
Alienation , pp. 75ff). These trends "tend to attach people uncritically 
to their tradition, protect them from coming to self-knowledge, defend 
the authority of the dominant classes, create a false sense of 
superiority over others, and produce dreams of victory over 
outsiders 71 (Ibid. ,, p. 75.). (3) 

Since I had heard the term "ideology" used in both positive and negative 

ways, I was helped by the distinction which Douglas Kellner made between 

controlling <or hegemonic) ideology and liberating ideology. (4) This kind of 

distinction is also made by Gibson Winter, who writes: 

Ideology. . .-faces in two directions. ... Ideology nay be primarily oriented 
to preserving and legitimating the established powers in a society. It 
may also face primarily toward the future and project a Utopian model 
for a more just society. In either case, ideology draws upon the 
symbolic powers that generate a people's identity. ... (5) 



It is important to understand the dominant liberal ideology in this 

society which seems overwhelming hegemonic to me and reflect on how it keeps 

us -from moving toward trans-formative change- We must initially acknowledge 

that although most of us who are white, middle-strata feminists say we want 

significant change and try to bring about some change, we seldom seem to make 

more than minor adjustments to the social dynamics surrounding us. Audre 

Lorde warns us that such efforts won't work: 

For the masters 7 s tools will never dismantle the master's house . They 
may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will 
neve" enable us to bring about genuine change. (6) 

Deep down we know we have problems with too much change in the way things are. 

We do not want the power dynamics of the master's house to change too much. 

We benefit from them in most respects, even though there may be some ways in 

which the established power dynamics hurt us if we happen to be lesbian, 

disabled, old, single, etc. Freire points out how threatening it is to the 

non-poor for things to change in relation to class: 

The freedom of the poor is in their process of liberation. Every 
attempt at liberation of the poor appears to the rich as a. threat, and 
every attempt at liberation of the poor is seen by the rich as a 
restriction of their own freedom= The understanding of this dynamic 
relationship throws some light on how the process and the pedagogy of 
liberation of the poor differ from the process and pedagogy for the non- 
poor or the rich. When somebody asks who educates the rich, I say "the 
rich," but the irony is that the rich educate themselves to continue 
rich and they educate the poor to continue poor. And the rich educate 
the poor to accept their own poverty as a normal and natural thing. (7) 

Freire helps us to see how insidious are the forces that would block us from 

bringing about a new social order. We not only hold onto what we wrongly 

have, but we teach the poor to see our ownership of disproportionate 

quantities of things as "normal and natural." Even if we are among the 

remnant who really want to change the power dynamics of our society and world. 


"all of us -fear our own liberation because the liberation which results, -from 
successfully countering the controlling ideology also brings 
accountability. " (8) 

Even though it is frightening, how might white, middle-strata 
Presbyterian clergywomen move away from the controlling liberal ideology 
toward a vision of Feminist Liberation? Robert Evans has helped me think 
about what some of the essential elements to such transformation might be, and 
they are as follow: 

1. Encounter with the Poor 

2. Experiential Immersion that Challenges Assumptions 

3. Openness to Vulnerability 

4. Community of Support and Accountability 

5. Vision and Values 

6. Cycle of Critical Socioeconomic Analysis — Reflection/ 

Act ion /Reflection 

7. Commitment, Involvement, and Leadership 
6. Symbol, Ritual and Liturgy (9) 

(See Appendix K for my summary of quoted descriptions of these elements.) 

This comprehensive description of the components of transformation 
challenges us to be about the task which will bring us to a new day. This 
vision might help move us beyond our "stuckness 1 ' in the controlling ideologies 
which distort our world as well as our dreams. 

However, Susan Griffin proposes that there is a sameness about all 

ideology; therefore moving away from a controlling ideology may not Tree us of 

our resistance to Feminist Liberation. As a flatter of fact, even what looks 

like a liberating ideology is easily transformed into a controlling one: 

...This is the way of all ideology. It is Bind over body. Safety 
over risk. The predictable over the surprise. Control over emotion. 
But the history of ideologies is also a tragedy. For in the beginning a 
political theory is born of genuine feeling of a sense of reality.... A 
theory of liberation must be created to articulate the feeling of 
oppression, to describe this oppression as real, as unjust and, to point 
to a cause. In this way the idea is liberating. It restores to the 
oppressed a belief in the self and in the authority of the self to 
determine what is real. 


But when at theory is trans-formed into an ideology, it begins to 
destroy the self and self-knowledge. Originally born of feeling, it 
pretends to float above and around feeling. Above sens&tion. It 
organizes experience according to itself, without touching experience. 
By virtue of being itself, it is supposed to know. To invoke the narrie 
of this ideology is to confer truthfulness. No one can tell it anything 
new. Experience ceases to surprise it, inform it, transform it. It is 
annoyed by any detail which does not fit into its world view. ... Begun as 
a theory of liberation, it is threatened by the new theories of 
liberation: slowly, it builds a prison for the mind. (10) 

Griffin voices my fear that Feminist Liberation can become an ideology and 

lose its capacity to be liberating and transforming. What can be done to move 

us away from the dominant ideology des) in this society while not replacing 

them with an equally death-rendering one? Griffin proposes that 

...we may have to relearn thinking. We have to learn to tolerate 
questions. .. .We may even have to learn to cultivate paradox, welcome 
contradiction or a troublesome question. We may have to learn to love 
knowledge for its own sake, not as means to power. This is not to srgue 
that one cannot argue. This is not to argue against thought. But 
rather to argue against the old dualities. Against ideology. And for 
the intellect. For the cle&r intellect which explores the self ana the 
world with a genuine desire to know. (11) 

Opening ourselves to this new wa<y of thinking and knowing hopefully will free 

us to live out Feminist Liberation in such a way as to m&ke it lioeratmg for 

ourselves and others. 

3. Sexism : The third source of resistance to Feminist Liberation is 
sexism, which in both our lives and society acts to reduce the chances of our 
being Feminist Liberationists. Sexism has been defined as "...cultural and 
economic structures which create and enforce the elaborate and rigid patterns 
of sex-marking and sex-announcing which divide the species, along lines of 
sex, into dominators and subordinates. Individual acts and practices are 
sexist which reinforce and support those structures, either as culture or as 
shapes taken on by the enculturated animals. ... u (12) 

In her metaphor of oppression as a bird in the gilded bird cage, Marilyn 


Frye has given us a powerful metaphor -for sexism: 

Cages, Consider a birdcage. If you. look very closely at just one 
wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of 
what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you. could look at 
that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a 
bird would not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go 
somewhere. Furthermore,, even if, one day at a time, you myopically 
inspected each wire, you still could not see why a bird would have 
trouble going past the wires to get anywhere. There is no physical 
property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could 
discover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it 
except in the most accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop 
looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic 
view of the whole cage, that you. can see why the bird does not go 
anywhere: and then you will see it in a moment. It will require no 
great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird 
is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no -one o-f 
which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their 
relations to each other, are as con-fining as the solid walls of a 

It is now possible to grasp one of the reasons why oppression can 
be hard to see and recognize: one can study the elements o-f an 
oppressive structure with great care and some good will without seeing 
the structure as a. whole, and hence without seeing or being able to 
understand that one is looking at a cage and that there are people there 
who are caged, whose motion and mobility are restricted, whose lives are 
shaped and reduced. (13) 

Most feminist clergywomen would have little trouble identifying with 

these notions of sexism. We get caught, however, in internalized sexism. This 

''voice", experienced as either faint or loud within us, tells us that our 

sexist oppressors are right. The oppressor no longer needs to be present for 

oppression to continue. We hold it in place by believing, for example, that 

we are weak, stupid, crazy, dumb, evil. (14) We believe, therefore, that we 

deserve what we get at the hands of individual men and the sexist institutions 

that have been created by them, whether in the form of discrimination on the 

job, dismissal of our ideas in academia, non-voluntary committal to a mental 

institution or other violence to our bodies, minds, psyches, or spirits. 

These tapes are not easy to erase. As a »atter of fact, we do participate in 


our own oppression, often never perceiving our part in perpetuating our pain. 

This internalized oppression gets played out in our lives not only in 

the collusion in our own individual oppression but also in our horizontal 

violence against other women, it comes in many forms, such as in lying to 

other women, competing with them, and putting other women down in various 

ways. It can take the forms o-f accepting sexist stereotypes when applied to 

other women and o-f interpreting violence against other women as their own 

■fault. Susan Griffin reminds us that we should not be too surprised by our 


And in all this, do we forget that we have swallowed the old paradigms, 
been raised in the same woman-hating culture? We ourselves have learned 
to associate woman with nature, dark skin with dangerous knowledge. In 
a part of us, we are afraid of all that masculine society fears. We 
tear female power, in ourselves and in others. And we fear separation. 
We do not like another woman to think differently than we do. We 
confuse ourselves and our own integrity with that of other women, whom 
we confuse with our mothers, whom we confuse with nature. That which m 
society has created conditions which imprison us also determines the 
shape of the dialogue we have between us, the shape of our efforts 
toward liberation. Just as society has separated the idea of "women" 
from the idea of "knowledge," we cease to be able to accept our own 
thoughts, feelings and sensations as a source of authority. (15) 

Adrienne Rich's description of women's lying makes this phenomenon even 

easier to grasp: 

Women have been forced to lie, for survival, to men. How to unlearn 
this among other women? 

"Women have always lied to each other." 

"Women have always whispered the truth to each other." 

Both of these axioms are true. 

"Women have always been divided against each other." 
"Women have always been in secret collusion." 
Both of these axioms are true. 

In the struggle for survival we tell lies. To bosses, to prison 
guards, to police, men who have power over us, who legally own us and 
our children, lovers who need us as proof of their manhood. 

There is a danger run by all powerless people: that we forget we 


are lying, or that lying becomes a weapon we carry over into 
relationships with people who do not have power over us. (16) 

Rich's question about how women can unlearn lying to one another is profound. 

It also helps us realise other ways in which we treat each other violently. 

We must work on affirming and valuing ourselves as women, for it is in 

validating our own existence and personhood that we are able to embrace other 

women as sisters. Put this internal work must be done in the context of a 

community from which we receive support anc to which we feel accountable. 

Then we can support each other in challenging the structural sexism in our 


4. Social Privilege : Another major force I see working against our 

becoming Feminist Liberat ionists is that of social privilege. As mentioned 

earlier, one of the reasons this obstacle doesn't come readily to mind is that 

we who have privilege can choose to ignore or deny its reality. It seems to 

our advantage as white, middle-strata clergywomen to leave things as they are, 

because we personally benefit from our race and class privilege. However, 

Feminist Liberation challenges this privilege so as to make it impossible for 

us to continue in our dreaming "innocence" or our ignorance. It is painful to 

become aware that the oppression of poor people and people of color is 

required to maintain our class and race privilege, fiy first real awareness of 

this privilege came in my growing recognition of the connection between my 

access to economic survival resources and the poverty of most Latin Americans. 

This became clear to me the year I lived in Peru. As »y dollars appreciated, 

■y Peruvian friends' soles were devalued. One of the North American 

theologians who has helped tie understand my privilege as a U.S. citizen has 

been Robert McAfee Brown throuqh his writings about his own struqqle with 



It is obvious that to hear something involves a willingness to 
listen. It is less obvious, but more important, that we may not like 
what we hear; the new song may be such a threat or such a challenge, 
that we want to stifle it. 

The Lord's song is clearly a threat . It is a threat to our 
personhood, suggesting that we are on the wrong side or the oppressor- 
oppressed dialectic; it is a threat to our -faith, suggesting that we co- 
opt -faith to allow us to side with the privileged rather than the needy; 
it is a threat to our nationhood, suggesting that we use our power -for 
exploitive rather than creative purposes; and it is a threat to our will 
to change, suggesting that the price of change is more than we are 
willing to put on the line. 

For many, the last point is the heart of the problem. Many of the 
structures of society that benefit us are structures that destroy 
others. Their backs and lives are broken producing the food we eat and 
the gooes we purchase. They will never be able to stand as long as our 
feet are on their necks. Their exploitation seems to be necessary for 
our comfort. And unless we are callously insensitive, we cannot help 
being threatened by that discovery. We would like to change the world 
so that such conditions do not continue and we are further threatened 
when most of the things we are prepared to "do" are looked upon as cheap 
palliatives or trivial evasions of the real problem. Our concepts of 
"help," "charity," and "doing good" are interpreted as ways to salve our 
consciences without changing our lives. We attack the symptoms rather 
than the causes. This makes us feel better but nothing has changed . 

One insidious thing about privilege is that we can choose to hear or not 

to hear the cry of our brothers and sisters who do not share our privilege and 

suffer because of it. As Marilyn Frye contends, this phenomenon occurs even 

among feminists who choose to hear: 

Nonetheless, many white feminists have to a fair extent responded 
to the demand; by which I mean, white feminists have to a fair extent 
chosen to hear what it was usually in their power not to hear. The 
hearing is, as anyone who has been on the scene knows, sometimes very 
defensive, sometimes dulled by fear, sometimes alarmingly partial or 
distorted. But it has interested me that I and other white feminists 
have heard the objections and demands, for I think it is an aspect of 
race privilege to have a choice — a choice between the options of hearing 
and not hearing. That is part of what being white gets you. (18) 

She reflects further on the difficulty we have in perceiving our options and 

prerogatives as white women in relation to women of color or poor women. The 


difficulty is rooted in our systemic relationships to those (white) men 

through whom we gain our privilege: 

...Members of dominant groups are habitually busy with impressing each 
other and care more for that than for actually knowing what is going on. 
And again, white women can learn from our own experience a propos (most 
often, white) men. We do much o-f what we do with a great anxiety for 
how we will be received by men — by mentors, friends, husbands, levers, 
editors, members of our disciplines, professions or political groups, 
tenure-review committees, fathers. With our attention focused on these 
men, or our imaginings of them, we cannot pay attention to the matter at 
hand and will wind up ignorant of things which were perfectly apparent. 
Thus, without any specific effort these men can turn white women to the 
work of falsification even as we try to educate ourselves. Since white 
women are almost white men, being white, at least, and sometimes more- 
or-less honorary men, we can cling to a hope of true membership irr the 
dominant and powerful group, and if our focus is thus locked on them by 
this futile hope, we can be stuck in our ignorance and theirs all our 
lives. (Some men of color fail into the parallel trap of hoping for 
membership in the dominant and powerful group, this time because of 
their sex. With their attention focused on power and money, they cannot 
see women, of their race or any other.) Attention has everything do 
with knowledge. (19) 

When we choose not to hear our poor or racial ethnic sisters, thereby- 
failing to understand the impact of our privilege on their lives, we 
perpetuate the oppressive systems in this society and around the world. In an 
oppressive system, a few "token" subordinates usually are encouraged to become 
honorary members of the dominant group. In her written interview, Margaret (a 
racial ethnic lay staff member whom I interviewed) reflects the experience of 
being made an honorary white person: 

Even I, myself, as half American and half Chinese feel I am "given 
privileged" status because I do not look Chinese; this bothers me. I 
want to be known as Chinese also, but our privileged status is often 
given to us by others who want to have us be like them. 

Not only is the honorary member of the dominant group made to seem like a 

•ember of the dominant group but she is also expected to be beholden to the 

dominant group and to behave appropriately. The honorary "man", "white", 

"straight", or "rich" constantly must have her/his attention on the dominant 


group to be sure that her/his behavior is acceptable. 

In order to be part of the trans-formative -forces that are growing ail 

around us, we -feminists must struggle to have attention -focused correctly. 

We oust choose on which side we will put our time, energy, reputation, money, 

and commitments; on the side o-f those who struggle to do justice or with those 

who perpetuate the unjust systems which give privilege to some and none to 

others. Any attempt to be neutral rein-forces the status quo that sa-feguards 

things as they are. This route guarantees the preservation o-f our privilege 

and the non-privilege o-f others. Phyllis (one o-f the racial ethnic 

clergy-women I interviewed) indicates her frustration with white Christian 

women who ignore their race privilege: 

...I am increasingly impatient with white Christian women at whatever 
state of consciousness or condition or ordination who fail to see, own 
and deal with the real and present danger of their privileged status as 
a powerful social construct derived solely from ''ace in North American 

To give up one's privilege (20) and its prerogatives is difficult not 

only because of the forces in society that deceive us about the way things are 

and that attempt to maintain the status quo but also because our attempts will 

marginalize us, separating us from those with whom we have been closely 

associated. For example, one of the hardest things about writing this thesis 

is questioning Liberal Feminism and its failure to challenge our privilege. I 

fear it will threaten ay relationships with those who are dearest to me, even 

some of my -feminist colleagues. The nature of privilege is such that when we 

dare to question it, we are often ridiculed and rejected by others *ho share 

our privilege and do not wish to question it. -Already I have experienced 

being marginalized because of my feminism, leftist politics, and lesbianism. 

This marginalization has been painful. It has been even more difficult for me 


to challenge my closest -feminist colleagues about ways in which we fail to 
pose the probing questions concerning how we oppress others. 

In -fact, in the process of trying to liberate ourselves, we have left 
others behind. It is scary for me to speak this truth. In doing so, I do not 
claim to have all the answers about how we move away from our privilege; but I 
am sure that, unless we find such courage, we will not help to bring about the 
transformation we desire. 

Angela Davis, in a provocative speech at Simmons College in the fall of 
1989, challenged white, middle-class women to face the assumptions that : 
reflect our race and class privilege. She also challenged women of color to 
become active in a transformed feminist movement. Her words ring in my ears: 

...We continue to conceptualize the problem of women'' s equality as 
one that requires us to understand the relationship between women or 
gender and race and class. When we conceptualize the problem as one of 
women and then race and then class, there is a possibility of a 
continued and hidden marginalization of women from our (racial ethnic) 
communities and of poor women from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. 
The formulation itself indicates that there are women, and then there is 
race and then there is class. If you can add on race and class, you can 
also subtract race and class. Once you subtract race and class, you end 
up with something like pure unadulterated womanhood. It usually turns 
out to be white. Unfortunately if you look at the world of many white 
feminist theorists today, they persist in formulating the issues in such 
a. way as to render us invisible. Finally we will hear the voice of 
woman, but I don't see me there. I dorrt recognize myself. 

Because of the ideological nature of our educational process, 
there is a tendency to utilize concepts which are abstract universais 
which usually turn out to be concrete particulars because they 
camouflage the fact that what is really being talked about is white, 
■iddle class or bourgeoisie. When these concepts are used in the 
Feminist Movement, they do violence to us who aren't white, who aren't 
•iddle class. .. .What I think is so ironic is that some of the same 
feminists who so passionately challenged the use of the purportedly 
generic term, "Man", because Man relegated women to the status of 
invisibility. They do the same thing when they use the term, "Woman," 
because it renders those of us who are Afro American, Latina, Asian, 
working class, welfare mothers, and homeless women to that very same 
status of invisibility. (21) 

Davis critiques the feminist movement because she feels that it must be 



trans-formed in order to lead the way to a new social order. (22) 

Elizabeth Spelman, philosopher and teacher at Smith College, also 
struggles with the issue of "adding on ,! class and race to the issue of gender. 
She believes that any discussion of "women" — i.e., the "essential woman" — 
which does not acknowledge class and race realities is, in fact, always about 
white, middle-strata women. According to Spelman, white, middle-strata 
feminists tend to assume that, when we talk about "woman", we are somehow 
getting down to "the essence" of womanhood in a way that is not possible when 
we include poor and racial ethnic women. This leads us to assume that there 
is a homogeneity among women. This "desire to deny differences among women 
may be an expression of a desire not to expose one's status as the norm from 
which others differ, or it may be an insistence that all women are after all 
basically just, everyone is just like me. "(23) Spelman 
advocates that we lift up the reality of the "inessential women 11 — racial 
ethnic, working class, lesbian--so that the feminist movement will reflect the 
needs, concerns, ar.c visions of ail women. 

5. Three Additional Resistances : I want to mention briefly three other 
reasons we white, middle-strata clergywomen may fail to embrace Feminist 

a. Lack of Information: One is quite simple; some clergywomen 
have had no exposure to the Feminist Liberation perspective. They have not had 
the option to consider the possibility of such change in their lives and 
worldviews. This is one reason that I am writing this thesis. The final 
chapter will suggest some strategies at various levels of the Presbyterian 
Church which I think will help inform clergywomen about Feminist Liberation. 

b. Despair? Another possible cause of resistance is despair and 


discouragement. At times, we look at "the powers and principalities" of this 

society and -feel that, no matter what our woridview, it will make no read 

difference. Our sense of the great power of the death-rendering -forces we 

oppose is not exaggerated. What's more, we can see it echoed in the 

experience of the Women's Movement in the early 1900s. Sharon Welch addresses 

this reality: 

The Women's Peace Party avoided the error so often identified as the 
cause of women's defeat, the appeal to reform the public sphere because 
of dangers to the home, yet they were defeated as easily as other 
women's groups. Schott goes on to name the external causes for the 
death of the Women's Peace Party. 'The failure of that vision to 
materialize was due less to faults in the theoretical basis for women's 
action and more to the powerful structural barriers of a patriarchal 
society.' The defeat of the Women's Peace Party and other women 
reformers was not primarily due to the inadequacies of theory or 
strategy. They were, quite simply, outmaneuvered. Hen had greater 
economic and political power, more control over newspapers and 
publishing, and thus more control over popular perceptions. Any theory, 
any strategy, any definition of woman could be turned against 
feminists. (24) 

Welsh goes on to challenge us not to despair because of this reality but 

rather to use it to make us stronger and more hopeful as we develop our 

theories, determine our strategies, and implement our actions: 

This could seem grim, but my conclusion is not pessimistic. I see 
it rather as a call for suppleness of mind, clarity of vision and 
purpose. We can think, organize, and act with greater focus given this 
awareness, doing our theoretical work well, but holding it lightly, 
valuing the human connections it serves more than the cerebral 
connections it makes. 

...Just as theory separated from community can be most easily 
distorted, theoretical work grounded in community offers a better chance 
for political success, and this for several reasons. If demonstrated 
faulty, incomplete, or even distorted, the base remains for engendering 
other theories, other theologies and thealogies, and future resistance — 
the experience from which critical thought is developed. ... (25) 

c. Isolation: The last reason I shall cite here for the 

resistance to Feminist Liberation is isolation. During our gathering in 

April, 1989, the white, middle-strata clergywomen with whom I met identified 


isolation as one of the greatest obstacles to risk-taking and paradigm shifts 

in their own lives. The isolation can be geographical, theological, 

political, structural, emotional, etc. Janelle (one of the ciergywomen at the 

gathering) reflected this isolation when she described an experience she had 

while working within the national structures of the Presbyterian Church. She 

felt isolated and rejected by women related to Church Employed Women when she 

remained on the staff while other women executives were laid off: 

...I had no political savvy or political base. I was really a very new 
feminist* ... The cost from that battle was ten years of diqqinq out from 
underneath because a lot of the bad stuff that got going between me and 
Church Employed Women, I think, came out of that mess... .It was a cycle 
that I could not seem to break.... The part that I needed to look at in 
response to your question is what was the payoff for me in all of this, 
as much pain as it was. The part I had to face up to is that the payoff 
might have been that 1 had some excuse not to be more effective in the 
system. It is like I had this anchor on me. It was somehow their fault 
because we were not making this energy work together but it was getting 
pulled apart. But there must have been something inside of me that was 
contributing to keeping the cycle going. The fact was that I felt hurt 
and angry not to get the support from the very group that I needed 
support from. It meant that I felt very vulnerable for years. 

Janelle was unable to take many risks during this period because she was too 

isolated from the support she needed. Again, some of the strategies in 

Chapter VII, I hope, may help us think about how we can reduce the chances of 


By no stretch of the imagination have I offered an exhaustive list of 

reasons we might have for resisting Feminist Liberation as a perspective 

around which to organize our lives and ministries. To move beyond our fears, 

our bondage to liberal ideology, our failure to understand the full nature of 

sexism, our refusal to acknowledge our privilege, and our incapacity to 

overcome our isolation and despair will bring dramatic changes in our lives. 

The decision to move in this direction is frauqht with anxieties and danqer; 


yet to do so can be transformative and life-giving. The challenge of Feminist 
Liberation is for us to take the risk. 



1. In the last three chapters I will address myself directly to white, middle- 
strata Presbyterian clergywomen because I wish to stand with them as I 
consider how Feminist Liberation may impact our lives and ministries. 

2. Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (Freedom: The Crossing Press, 1984), pp. 41-2. 

3. I read this book after I wrote Chapter II, and I was pleased to see how my 
views paralleled some of those in this book. 

Alice Evans, Robert Evans, and William Kennedy, Pedagogies for the Non-Poor 
(Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1989), pp. 234-5. 

4. Douglas Kellner, "Ideology, Marxism, and Advanced Capitalism," Socialist 
Review 8 , No. 6, Nov. /Dec, 1978, p. 38, as quoted by Alice Evans, Robert 
Evans, and William Kennedy, Pedagogies for the Non-Poor , p. 268. 

5. Gibson Winter, Liberating Creation: Foundations of Religious Social 
Ethics (New York, Crossroad Press, 1981, p. 97. as quoted by Alice Evans, 
Robert Evans, and William Kennedy, Pedagogies for the Non-Poor , p. 235. 

6. Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider , p. 112. 

7. Paulo Freire, Consultation on "Pedagogies for the Non-Poor," at Claremont 
School of Theology on November 17-18, 1983, as quoted by Alice Evans, Robert 
Evans, and William Kennedy, Pedagogies for the Non-Poor , pp. 219-20. 

8. Alice Evans, Robert Evans, and William Kennedy, Pedagogies for the Non- 
Poor . p. 270. 

9. Ibid, pp. 275-282. (See Appendix K for expanded summary in which I have 
quoted brief sections of Evans description of each element needed for 
transformation. ) 

10. Susan Griffin, "The Way of All Ideology, Signs Vol. 7(3), Spring, 1982) 
pp. 647-8. 

11. Ibid., pp. 659-60. 

12. Marilyn Frye, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (Freedom: 
The Crossing Press, 1983), p. 11. 

13. Ibid., pp. 4-5. 

14. Women often see what is wrong in our lives as our individual -failure 
rather than as a social and political reality. 

15. Susan Griffin, Signs , p. 659. 

16. Rich, Adrienne, On Lies. Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978 
(New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979), p. 189. 


17. Robert McAfee Brown, Theology in a New Key: Responding to Liberation 
Themes (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1978), pp. 133-4. 

18. Harilyn Frye, The Politics of Reality , p. 111. 

19. Ibid., p. 121. 

20. It is not really possible to set aside one's privilege because it is often 
an immutable aspect of one's identity, but one can put aside the prerogatives 
which go with that privilege. 

21. Taped speech given at Simeons College in the Fall of 1989. 

22. Isn't it fascinating that it would be Angela Davis, through her books and 
speech, who would contribute so significantly to my new understanding of 
feminism? In looking back in retrospect, I am proud of the Legal Defense Fund 
Committee of the United Presbyterian Church for its action in 1971 to matce a 
grant to Angela's legal defense. I now understand in a new way why it was the 
right thing to do even if we had known the price we would pay in the loss of 
hundreds of members and millions of dollars. As a black, feminist, communist 
woman, Angela Davis represented many of the groups who have no privilege in 
this society. What better way for the Presbyterian Church, whose membership 
is primarily made up of people with race and class privilege, to act out its 
commitment to justice. How tragic that this event in our history is 
interpreted in such negative terms! 

23. Elizabeth Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist 
Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), p. 175. 

24. Sharon Welch, "Ideology and Social Change," in Judith Plaskow and Carol 
P. Christ, Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality (San 
Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1989), p. 339. 

25. Ibid., p. 341. 


Chapter VI 

The Vision for and the Implications of Feminist Liberation 
in the Lives and Ministries, of White, Middle-Strata Presbyterian Clergywomen 

In Chapter III, I have brought together eight elements of Feminist 
Liberation with the lives and works of three Feminist Liberation theologians. 
In Chapter V, I indicated some of the resistances that often block white, 
•iddle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen from daring to embrace Feminist 
Liberation. In this chapter I will focus specifically on what it means for us 
to say "NO" to our old relationship with the Presbyterian Church and what 
difference it would make in our lives and ministries if we withstood the 
temptations to resist Feminist Liberation. 

Saying "NO" to Our Old Relationship with the Presbyterian Church : When 
we dare to say "YES" to Feminist Liberation, we are definitely saying "NO" to 
many other things. We endeavor to say "NO" to that which is not liberating 
and not a part of passionate living. As I have mentioned, this may mean that 
we have to say farewell to certain types of employment, to particular personal 
relationships, to various of our privileges, to specific ideologies and 
theologies, to many of our commitments, to some of our views about ourselves, 
and even to our very lives. Probably most threatening to many clergywomen is 
the fact that we may have to say "NO" to our present relationship with the 
Presbyterian Church or with the Christian faith for that matter. 

1. Fear of Reprisals mnd Losses ; To challenge the nature of our 
relationship with the Presbyterian Church may mean finding ourselves under- 
employed or unemployed, for there will be those who will perceive this 
challenge as too radical. We «ay be seen as unfit to hold positions in the 
Presbyterian Church. Having experienced underemployment most of my career and 
having known unemployment for months on end several times, I do not wish to 

understate the risk and stress of such economic hardships. I do know, 
however, that it is possible to endure such hardships, especially when they 
are directly or indirectly related to one's commitments to justice and 
liberation. We may -find ourselves having to be resourceful about finding 
employment, sometimes outside the church; to live more simply, and to find 
supportive persons with and from whoa we will continue to find vision and hope 
to sustain us when the going gets rough so we can keep on keeping on. 

So what's new, sisters? Many of us have already had to face such 
frightening times merely because we are women, regardless of our political or 
theological perspectives. At the General Assembly of 1971, I attended a 
conference for professional women employed by the church. At this conference, 
one clergywoman shared that she didn't know where her next bite was coming 
from, another told of a miscarriage she had just experienced because of the 
stress she was under, and one of the educators said that she had worked in the 
same church for 14 years and her salary was less than the custodian's (a man) 
who had just been employed the year before. I became so angry and appalled by 
what I saw the church doing to the women it employed that I declared myself a 
feminist before the end of the meeting. The rest is history. 

It may now be that if we are feminist liberationists, we will experience 
similar economic hardships because of our political and theological 
perspectives. This gives me some real comfort and strength; I no longer feel 
like a victim, for I have made a choice to hold to these liberating political 
and theological perspectives regardless of the consequences! What's more, a 
decision to take risks with our economic security may make it easier for us to 
practice the theology of relinquishment, in which we willingly open our hands 
and release what has always belonged to those who have nothing. Marie Augusta 


Neal makes this point clearly: 

When the gospel is re-read in view of current data about population and 
resources, two distinct messages are revealed, one for the poor and one 
for the non-poor (Senior and Stuhlroueller, oottwald; Gutierrez, 1983). 
For the poor, the good news is that the land belongs to them (Lev. 25). 
For the non-poor, it is that God will not abandon them as they release 
their grip on the things poor people need to survive. (1) 

Another frightening aspect of becoming Feminist Liberationists is that 
we will find ourselves even more marginalized within the Presbyterian Church 
than we may already feel ourselves to be. We all know what that feels like 
because we are women, and many of us also experience other marginalizing 
realities in our lives. We know it can be lonely and fear-provoking to be 
forced to the margin by those who, by reason of their privilege, hold on to 
their position in the center in a way reminiscent of the game, King of the 
Mountain, I used to play as a child in the Mojave Desert. In this game, the 
biggest, strongest, or fastest child would keep the rest of the children off 
the top (center) of the hill usually by flinging them off. We often feel as 
if we are being flung out of the church. Such an experience may lead us to a 
new understanding of our relationships with one another and the church. 

2. The Possibility of Leaving the Church : Embracing Feminist Liberation 
forces us to face yet another frightening prospect that brings most of us a 
lot of pain; the possibility that we may not be able to remain clergywomen in 
the Presbyterian Church or in any other church for that matter. A number of 
the clergywomen, with whom I met in April, 1989, and whose views and ideas are 
reflected in Chapter IV, indicated that 4hey may not be mile to stick it out 
with the church in the future. For me, it is a daily question whether I will 
stay or leave. I find, as I get further and further away from the 
"traditional dogma" of the Presbyterian Church, that I have to ask whether or 


not my personal integrity is badly threatened. It is not only that I am far 
afield from much of that to which the institutional church holds but it also 
appears that the Presbyterian Church is drifting further away from where my 
spiritual and political commitments are. The institutional church often 
contaminates my sense of what I am to do and be in order to be faithful to 
•yself, to others, and to God. Yet I know that I am not yet ready to leave 
the church. When one of «y former students in Peru and one of the first 
Methodist clergywomen in that country says she may leave the church in the 
near future, I know I am not ready to take that step. Too many resistances 
come up for me. I don't want her to leave the church, but I know that she may 
have to leave for her own sake. And I must stay for my sake, at least, for 

Why do I stay in the church at this point? Because I will always be a 
Christian even if I leave the church. Even if I wanted to declare myself a 
non-Christian, my life would continue to be imbued with Christian values and 
assumptions from which I could not escape. I can question, and even reject, 
some of those Christian values and assumptions, but I will find them springing 
forth at the most unexpected moments. Ouite practically, I also realize that 
the church provides me with a base from which to operate in the world and even 
with funds, at times, to do what I want to do, such as those which helped me 
get groups of women together to discuss the issues of this thesis. It is also 
in the church where I have my connections with many women who believe as I do. 
And lastly, I also have a very deep sense of not wanting to leave the church 
to those whose commitments are antithetical to my own. To leave would be 
abdicating ay power and my responsibility to work toward change and radical 
transformation within the Presbyterian Church. 


3. Questioning the Viability o-f the Presbyterian Church ; In addition to 
deciding whether I wish to continue in the church, remain ordained, or 
identify myself as Christian, I must consider whether I believe the 
Presbyterian Church to be viable and able to embody the justice and liberation 
that are its very reasons for being. I have a deep apprehension that unless 
the PCUSA changes drastically within the next ten years, it will die or 
implode as a result of its own internal corruption. Transformation is 
desperately needed. It may be those of us who answer the call of Feminist 
Liberation who can help lead the rest of the church to a new day. If we 
accept such a role, we will probably be part of the remnant, but a large 
remnant — because we are not alone. Others share our vision. It is a vision 
that compels participation in the struggles of people of color, of gay men and 
lesbians, of those with lower incomes, of persons with disabilities, etc. 

The Presbyterian Church will have to decide whether it wishes to follow 
the same old fruitless routines and die as a result or whether it will move 
into a new day. Such a vision was grasped by Walter Brueggemann in his 
address at the dedication o-f the Presbyterian Center (new national 
headquarters building) in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 1988. He was 
aware o-f many of the risks which Presbyterians faced as we moved into a new 
location, and he used Isaiah to challenge us. He closed his comments with 
these words: 

My suggestion is that our dominant tale has run out in exhaustion 
and displacement. In such a situation there is no easy or quick 
response. There is only the slow, hard work of poetic alternative. 
This poetic alternative begins in recognizing our true situation: it 
•oves by subversive evangelical lips uttering hopes and possibilities; 
it may end in new people, new community, new creation.... 

Hy thought is that this fresh beginning in Louisville is no simple 
bureaucratic maneuver, though it can readily be reduced to that. This 
new beginning is only partly a looking back to end the war (Civil War) 
that has wrenched us so painfully apart. It is more an act of hope, a 


hunch that the narrative which has run out Bay be re-entered in a -fresh 
way. It is an act of hope that there might be birthed a new -faith, a 
new mission, and a new worship which can again -feed and nurture the body 
politic back to health. 

...We can only stand in readiness for what God may do. But that 
standing in readiness requires the use of intentional disciplines which 
in every case are marked by danger: 

..dangerous memories reaching all the way back to our barren 

mother Sarah; 
..dangerous criticism which mocks the deadly empire; 
-.dangerous promises which imagine a shift of power in the 

..dangerous songs which sing of unexpected newness of life; 
. . dangerous bread free of all imperial ovens; all leadinq 

..dangerous departures of heart and body and mind, leavings 
undertaken in trust and obedience. <2> 

In the same spirit, Letty Russell suggests how we can survive in the 

present situation while anticipating the transformed reality: 

...To live in the present setting but to be constantly living out of an 
alternative future reality is to be bi-cultural . . . . By knowing the social 
structures and psychological dynamics of the old house of bondage, we 
can work to subvert those structures and to limit their power in our 
lives and institutions. Subversion is most certainly one way of 
standing against the powers in this time before the full realisation of 
God's eschatological household. (3) 

Our hope comes in our living as if it were true that liberation is possible 
and that we have an urgent part in it. For those who decide to stay with the 
Presbyterian Church, there is much subversive work for us to do. (4) The saae 
is true for those who decide to leave. We also have much to do wherever we 
put our energy, time and commitment. We are all called to live out a life- 
giving vision that calls for real change and offers real hope. 

It is true that as a result of embracing Feminist Liberation, our 
relationship with the Presbyterian Church must change. Our conversion to the 
radical transformation called for in Feminist Liberation seems momentarily to 
shrink our world by catapulting us away -from familiar locations and 
relationships but it paradoxically also expands our consciousness and our 


world. For example, as I -find myself leaving behind some o-f my old 
friendships, commitments, and prerogatives, I find that new ones are taking 
their places. Although I sometimes mourn the loss of the familiar, I am 
learning to rejoice in the new opportunities. Increasingly, I am realizing 
that I have many more relationships with other marginalized persons in the 
church, in our society, and around the world; relationships of trust and love. 
I have so much to learn, and I have the support and friendship needed to make 
myself vulnerable to new people and open to new ventures. I only wish this 
period in my life had come sooner, but I am grateful that it has come at last! 

Saying "YES" to Feminist Liberation : When we embrace Feminist 
Liberation, both our lives and ministries are changed in dramatic ways. 

1. The Healing of Our Beings : The integration of Feminist Liberation 

into our lives causes our most basic sense of ourselves to be transformed. 

Our very beings are scarred and wounded from the dehumanizing contortions we 

have suffered in our effort to survive both in the church and in the society. 

We need healing from the wounds that have resulted from the hatred of women in 

our society, from the rejection we have experienced because we dared to be 

clergywomen, from the dualism of body and spirit which is manifested in our 

lives, from the stress we put ourselves under to be "superwomen", and from the 

broken relationships we experience due to sexism, heterosexism, racism, 

classism, able-bodism, ageism, etc. Barbara Deaing expresses so well the 

feelings of emptiness and fear which emerge in these experiences: 

I lie at the bottom of my spirit's well 

And try to still my breath 

And still my heart 

That staggers in my side 

Like an uneven wheel. 

Above me, agitation of the waters. 
Some of this motion is life, 


Some is death. 

Each is mistaken for the other, 

In panic, often, that turns to wrath, 

I see that wrath cut back 

Everything new, green, that we try to begin. 

And will life or will death prevail? 

hy fear is asking the question 

And the answer to fear, of course, is Death. 

I lie at the bottom of my spirit's well. 

If I lie quiet here 

Can I elude my fear? (5) 

We often find that our pain and fear keep us from finding the healing we 

need. I can remember a time when the clergywomen of a presbytery of which I 

was a member could not find time to be together, even though many of us were 

hurting. We just had too much to do, and we needed to preserve whatever space 

we had for ourselves. Feminist Liberation points out that we cannot heal 

ourselves in isolation. Our healing occurs in community. For too long we 

have been unsuccessful in trying to heal ourselves by ourselves or in 

insulated relationships, such as traditional therapy. Rita Nakashima Brock, 

an Asian American theologian, offers some wisdom: 

...In our pain is the power of self-knowledge that brings us to a 
healing wisdom and compassion. We will not be made whole and healed 
until the truth of our lives can be seen and told. Asian American women 
have begun to understand this in our own journeys of speaking 
bitterness, of telling our own pain in a community of sisters who hear 
our gentle murmurs of loneliness and suffering and mirror ourselves back 
to us. We understand this mirroring as a way of embracing all 
suffering. The capacity to suffer with the world leads us to a sense of 
the community of all creation. However, in acknowledging suffering, I 
prefer to make the focus not so much as cross-centered suffering, but a 
community-centered one, the global community of all creation. (6) 

When such healing occurs in our lives, we will be healthier because our 
bodies, minds, psyches, and souls will be more nearly experienced as whole 
gestalts, with integrity. We will no longer tiave * sense of being dis- 
integrating fragments with no sense of wholeness. In fact, we will be truly 


embodied. We actually will be living out our commitment to Feminist 

Liberation. As a result, our high stress levels will give way to greater 

serenity and peace. We will actually have time -for joy and play! Our healing 

will be profound. We will be ready to step out in a healing way toward 

others,, toward all of creation and toward our God. This kind of healing power 

is reflected in a poem by Elizabeth Tapia, a Filipina: 


I am a woman 
I am Filipino 
I am alive 

I am struggling 
I am hoping 

I am created in the image of God 

just like all other people of the world; 

I am a person with worth and dignity 

I am a thinking person, a feeling person, 

a doing person. 
I am the small I am that stands before 
the big I AM 

I am a worker who is constantly challenged 

and faced with the needs of the church and 

society in Asia and in the global community. 
I am angered by the structures and powers 

that create all forms of oppression, exploitation 

and degradation. 
I am a witness to the moans, tears, banners and 

clenched fists of my people. 
I can hear their liberating songs, their hopeful 

prayers and decisive march toward justice and 


I believe that all of us — women and men 
young and old, Christians and all others — 
are called upon to do responsible action; 
to be concerned 
to be involved 
I aa hoping 

I am struggling 
I am alive 
I am Filipino 
I aa a woman. (7) 


2. Trans-forming Our Theology and Ethics : Another great impact which 
Feminist Liberation will have in the lives and ministries of those of us who 
ar white, middle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen is in our theological and 
ethical perspectives. In our work, most o-f us have already challenged the 
theology and ethics which have predominated in the Presbyterian Church and in 
most other churches in the United States. However, most o-f us have been 
working on the basis of a Liberal Feminist perspective. This has enabled us 
to make some adjustments to, but not to transform, the prevailing models of 
theology and ethics. 

Turning to Feminist Liberation, we find that nothing is too sacred to be 
questioned or challenged. Alison Cheek, one of my colleagues, says that in 
Feminist Liberation Theology, "the sacred cows bellow." It is frightening to 
do this work because we do not know exactly where we are going. We fear we 
will have nothing left if we put everything up for question. Even if we do 
come away with something to which we are committed, we will once again, 
experience the void of having no language and images which express our new 
commitments and experiences. (8) I find this particularly threatening because 
since becoming a feminist nearly 20 years ago, I have not yet found language 
and images which offer me meaningful rituals. 

Although I have described some of the essential elements of Feminist 
Liberation, I believe that it is important for me to describe here 
specifically how my theology and ethics have been modified as Feminist 
Liberation has become the motivating force in ay life and ministry. (9) 

a. Theology and Ethics Hust Be Justice-Centered : Doing justice has 
always been important to my understanding of being a Christian. For some 
lime, »y attitude has been if our theology and ethics do not result in the 


doing of justice, what good are they? It seems to me that we must be about 

eradicating the violence done to the most vulnerable and powerless 

persons/groups by more dominant persons/groups caught up in the cycle o-f 

violence manifested in the structures and institutions of our society. There 

is no safe place for the oppressed within an unjust situation. Without 

justice there is no moral solution. Feminist Liberation has re-enforced my 

commitment to justice and has helped me understand how justice is the way in 

which we restore right-relation with other human beings, with all creation, 

with ourselves, and with God. Beverly Harrison boldly makes the claim for a 

justice-centered theological ethic: 

The basic theological hermeneutic, or principle of interpretation, of 
liberation theologies places justice, as communal right-relationship, at 
the center of a proper understanding of spirituality. On this reading, 
theological utterance evokes our shared passion for justice. Our common 
longing for a world ''where there are not excluded ones'" as literally the 
form divine presence takes among us. (10) 

God is seen as being a just God who demonstrates justice in liberation, and we 

are called to participate in that liberating process. 

b. Theology and Ethics tiust Generate Horal Agency : Our theology and 

ethics, if they are to be consistent with Feminist Liberation, must strongly 

hold up the truth that people are subjects of history. We are not objects who 

are to be acted upon as though we do not matter. Human beings are moral 

agents who together have responsibilities and rights to bring an end to 

alienation and violence and to participate in the creating of a vision of a 

new social order toward -which we move communally. This understanding of moral 

agency has called me to demonstrate confidence in the power of communities to 

be self-determining and self-transforming. This new understanding forces me 

to interrupt ay maternalistic tendencies which reveal my deep-seated belief 


that I really know better how to guide the liberating process through which 

someone or some group is going. Ada Maria Isasi Diaz and Yolanda Tarango 

challenge us to a profound sense of moral agency: 

In its attempts to develop an adequate social ethics, Hispanic Women's 
Liberation Theology starts by asserting that the individual as a moral 
agent is 'responsible for both interpersonal and social life.' This 
does away with separating the private from the public sphere of 
morality. Furthermore, Hispanic Women will no longer allow themselves 
to be confined to the private sphere. They will adamantly insist that, 
because they are moral agents, they have an active role to play in 
social transformation. <11) 

Without this belief in moral agency, there would be no base on which to build 

a commitment to mutual and just relationships. There would be no base for a 

liberating and transforming theology and ethics. 

c. Theology and Ethics Must Encourage Risk-Taking : Feminist Liberation 
involves risk-taking in relation to our theological perspectives. The ethical 
principles that emanate from these perspectives in turn lay the base for how 
we live our lives. I have found it difficult to "relax" into risk-taking, for 
there is so much about my background that tells me to be careful, to do the 
right thing, to be good, to be nice, to be Christian. It feels as if I am 
either willing to take only the risks which do not matter in the long run or 
take risks for the wrong reasons. It is an endless struggle to discern which 
risks to take and how to take them so that they will have the liberating 
effect for which I would hope. 

Recently I experienced a risk-taking opportunity to which I responded. 
I was in a gathering of women struggling with Feminist Liberation theology and 
ethics in which one of the women of color called one of the white women on 
what she considered to be maternalistic and racist behavior. The response of 
the group was typical: there was dead silence -for at least two minutes, which 


seemed like two hours. Then one of the other white women initiated a response 
which related to the woman of color's comment but took us obliquely in another 
direction. After several exchanges in the group, I finally screwed up my 
courage and commented, with fear and trembling, that it seemed to me that when 
women of color call white women on our racism, we almost always respond with 
dead silence and guilt and/or we change the subject. I went on to say that I 
felt that was what we had done in this exchange. Another white woman picked 
up on my comment and suggested that we do it differently this time. We then 
went on to have one of best conversations (in terms of openness and 
insightfulness) between white and racial ethnic women in my experience. I 
could never had seen clearly the dynamics of this exchange, nor felt moved to 
take this risk, if it had not been for Feminist Liberation. This perspective 
challenges me to grow in my understanding of the relationships among women of 
various races and classes and to take risks involved in building right 
relation with women who are different from me as well as with those who are 

d. Theology and Ethics Must Help Strengthen Communal Right-Relation : 
Feminist Liberation leads us to a theology and an ethics which call us to work 
in a "communal conspiracy." We cannot bring about justice and transformation 
alone. We must work in community and solidarity with others, especially those 
who have been most oppressed and excluded. Kasuke Koyama has said, "I am 
because we are, and, because we are, I am. "(12) Me must seek a "we-ness" with 
the poor and oppressed which empowers both them and us as we address the 
issues of injustice in our society. 

Creating a "communal conspiracy" will not be an easy task for us, for as 
Sally, one of the racial ethnic clergywomen with whom I consulted, warns, 


white, a id die-strata women usually have very little sense of the communal: 

...As a class o-f people, white, middle-strata, -feminist clergywomen have 
never been socialized into a concept o-f "my people" -for survival or any- 
other liberating purpose. They have only been socialized ambivalently 
about class and race issues in opposition to "the other" so as to 
protect whatever they were told was the status quo.... The implications 
are seemingly no community o-f accountability and little support in the 
sense o-f "so great a cloud o-f witnesses" even when nobody is physically 
around to give a hug. 

Yet the need for white, middle-strata clergywomen to break through this 

barrier o-f individualism and isolation is pro-found. It is a matter o-f li-fe 

and death -for others and -for ourselves as well. Separated, we have no power 

to save ourselves or bring about the changes we desire in our communities. 

We cannot limit ourselves to working communally only with each other as 

white middle strata clergywomen. We must move out to build coalitions and 

alliances with other justice-loving groups. Even when we recognize our need 

•for coalitions, we sometimes either romanticize the process, believing naively 

that it is easy or we think it is something we can initiate unilaterally. 

Spelman has -formulated some questions in relation to the building of 

coalitions between white women and women of color. They are disturbing 

questions which reflect how difficult the process of coalition-building is: 

...What is the need (to hear from women of color)? Is it to give 
legitimacy to a movement that already reflects the priorities of women 
not yet heard from? Is it to make other women feel as if they count, 
regardless of how well we listen or what we decide to do with what we 
hear? Does the fact of our having a need mean they ought to satisfy it? 
Is the reason we haven't heard them before that they haven't spoken, or 
that we haven't listened? Is hearing from them the same thing as 
talking with them? Are we really willing to hear anything and 
everything they might have to say, or only *hat me don't find too 
disturbing? Are we prepared to hear what they say, even if it requires 
learning concepts or whole languages that we don't yet understand? (13) 

Having been involved in groups that thought we mere really trying to 

honor the importance of building coalitions, I believe that there is a real 



sense in which white, middle-strata women often want to have the increased 
credibility of having women Df color and/or poor women present at our events — 
but we still want to call the shots. We still want to control the process of 
determining what the major issues are, planning and implementing our 
strategies, and getting most o-f the credit. Many times we participate in 
coalitions in good faith, but our privilege shows up over and over again. 
Coalition building between white women and women of color and/or poor women 
can be enormously difficult, as Bernice Reagon's illustrates in her 
description of white women inviting women of color into our "room": 

The first thing that happens is that the room don't feel like the 
room anymore. (Laughter) And it ain't home no more. It is not a womb 
no more. And you can't feel comfortable no more. ...You don't do no 
coalition building in a womb. ... Inside the womb you generally are very 
soft and unshelled. You have no covering. And you have no ability to 
handle what happens if you start to let folks in who are not like you. 

Coalition work is not work done in your home. Coalition work has 
to be done in the streets. And it is some of the most dangerous work 
you can do. And you shouldn't look for corn-fort. Some people will come 
to a coalition and they rate the success of the coalition on whether or 
not they feel good when they get there. They're not looking for a 
coalition; they're looking for a home!. ..You don't get fed a lot in a 
coalition. In a coalition you have to give, and it is different from 
your home. You can't stay there all the time. You go to the coalition 
for a few hours and then you go back and take your bottle (baby) 
wherever it is, and then you go back and coalesce some more. 

...If coalition is so bad, and so terrible, and so uncomfortable, 
why is it necessary?. .. Because the barred rooms will not be allowed to 
exist. They will all be wiped out. This is the plan that we now have 
in front of us. (14) 

As Reagon suggests, however, as difficult as coalition-building is, we must 

suffer through it because there is no other way to survive. 

e. TheoloQv and Ethics Hust Reflect and Celebrate Our Embodiment ; 

Beverly Harrison makes a strong statement about the importance of embodiment 

in our theology and ethics: 

If we are being, as feminists must, with 'our bodies, ourselves,* we 
recognize that all our knowledge, including our moral knowledge, is 
body-mediated knowledge. All knowledge is rooted in our sensuality. We 


know and value the world. If we know and value it, through our ability 
to touch, to hear, to see. .. .Feeling is the basic bodily ingredient that 
mediates our connectedness to the world.... If feeling is damaged or cut 
off, our power to image the world and act into it is destroyed and our 
rationality is impaired. But it is not merely the power to conceive the 
world that is lost. Our power to value the world gives way as well. If 
we are not perceptive in discerning our feelings, or if we do not know 
what we feel, we cannot be effective ©oral agents.... In the absence of 
feeling there is no rational ability to evaluate what is happening. 
Failure to live deeply in 'our bodies, ourselves" destroys the 
possibility of moral relations between us. (15) 

We white, middle-strata clergywomen are challenged by Feminist Liberation to 

affirm our sexual/sensual/erotic selves. In so doing we begin to carry out 

our moral obligations within our personal and societal relationships. When I 

look back on my own career and life, I am aware that it has been in those 

periods when I was most in touch with my body and my sexuality (usually when I 

was in a mutually loving relationship), that I have been the most involved in 

bringing about political and social change. During those times in my life, I 

have been the most willing to take risks, the most astute in my perceptions of 

the political scene, and the most effective in my political strategy and 

action. I don't believe that this has been an accident. Neither do I not 

think it was coincidental that my first genital/sexual experience (with a dear 

friend) came only hours after we both participated in a powerful demonstration 

in Riverside Church on behalf of Episcopal women and their inclusion in the 

life of their denomination. 

I believe that one of the ways in which things stay the way they are is 

that the oppressive systems within our society keep us out of touch with our 

erotic, sensual, sexual selves. As a result, we are out of touch with the 

vital life force within us, and without it our lives are anemic and sterile. 

Lorde's vivid description of the erotic shows how essential it is "for us to 

embrace the erotic with all of its power: 


During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets o-f white, 
uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet o-f yellow coloring 
perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin o-f the bag. We would 
leave the margarine out for a while to so-ften, and then we Mould pinch 
the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich 
yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it 
carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, 
over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag 
of margarine, thoroughly coloring it. 

I find the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released from 
its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life 
with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all 
my experience. (16) 

To be embodied with a strong sense of the erotic life force within us, we are 

not only put in touch with ourselves in a necessary way but also with others, 

with all creation and with God. To know God is to live our lives 

passionately, fully in touch with our whole selves. Indeed, our experience of 

our erotic power is an experience of sacred power as Heyward suggests. She 

describes the struggle involved in affirming and experiencing this reality: 

...Our relational vision remains unfulfilled. The erotic 
continues to be distorted, wreaking abuse and confusion among us. We do 
not yet live perfectly in the realm of the sacred and, in this world, we 
never will. Yet we are drawn toward the possibility of living more 
fully together as friends and lovers. We believe that this possibility 
is within our reach, and our faith is not merely idle speculation. We 
are not deluded. We move toward that which, through intimation and 
glimpses, intuitions and relationships, we know already to be real. 

....Daring to risk sharing this life together, coming into our 
YES, anointing one another's wounds as healers, each in her own way, we 
discover with greater confidence the authority among us that can be 
trusted to help us sustain our power in mutual relation. Steeped in the 
sacred relational spirit that has moved and empowered friends and lovers 
from the beginning, we yearn to be true to ourselves in relation, 
touched by and touching one another in the soul of who we are together 
and in each of our deepest places. (17) 

Feminist Liberation theology and ethics declares that we can only enter into 

just right-relations with ourselves, with others *nd with our God if those 

relations are embodied. Me are called to incarnate God's new creation. 


■f. Theology and Ethics Must Be Contextual ; Feminist Liberation calls 
us beyond the assumption of much theology and ethics that they can be 
universally applied to all persons in all settings. Rather Feminist 
Liberation insists that our theology and ethics can only be developed and 
applied within the particular context in which we live and act. Theology and 
ethics, according to Feminist Liberation, are not culture-, society-, or 
social location-neutral. In other words, our theology and ethics cannot be 
applied unaltered, i-f then, to other cultural contexts. The theology and 
ethics which -fit a particular people in a particular place and time must be 
developed by that people as they re-flect upon their particular experience. 
This does not mean that one group or culture cannot learn -from the theology 
and ethics o-f other groups or cultures, but, in the last analysis, each group 
must struggle to find the words and actions which best reflect their 
experience theologically and ethically. 

Doris (one of the racial ethnic clergywomen with whom I consulted) 

helped me to see how one's context impacts one's theological and ethical 

understanding when she shared how the concept of "chosen people" reflected in 

scripture is oppressive to her and to others: 

...when one is a participant in, draws identity from and enjoys the 
privileges of the system, then it is hard to recognize that the 
historical fabric of the institution is interwoven with injustice. 
Injustice is at the very root of the Church and in some ways 
Christianity itself. Any institution that starts from the premise of 
"chosen persons" (My note: The notion of the Israelites' being chosen 
people and then extrapolated to Christians) or a particular community 
who are worthy to receive its message, becomes -fertile ground for 
bigotry of all types. 

Doris' words ring in my ears, -for her statement reminds me, once again, how my 

racial context and privilege tiave protected me -from knowing how the concept of 

"chosen people" can be and has been perverted and used to underscore and 



rein-force privilege. The concept was -first applied to an oppressed people 
(The Israelites were oppressed by the Egyptians.), but now it has often been 
contorted to enhance the privilege o-f those in power. Doris' own context 
within the Black community has helped her to identify the dangerous 
implications of a much used theological concept within the Christian 
community. She has also helped me to see the concept in a new way. 

This brings me to the seemingly paradoxical realization that Feminist 
Liberation also calls us to resist the temptation to develop our theology and 
ethics in isolation within our own groups of identity. We must always be open 
to the theology and ethics being developed outside our own groups. Our 
theological and ethical development may begin within the context of our own 
lives but always within the larger arena of the many contexts found in our 
society and world. The Mudflower Collective reminds us that the context of 
our theology and ethics must be our lives in community: 

...In asserting that we must begin with the study of our lives, we 
incur the danger of turning inward, even when the inwardness is toward 
our people and not only into our individual selves. In terms of 
accountability, feminist theory and feminist theology cannot merely be 
the weaving together of a person's, or a group's experiences.... 

Beginning with our lives, we must do so in as diverse a cultural 
situation as we can find — if not face to face with people of different 
cultures, then at least through engagement with their books, art, music, 
and rituals. Educationally, this pluralism requires that we learn to 
listen more astutely, that we suspend the urge to idolatrize our own 
perceptions and beliefs, and that we challenge one another rather than 
acting like passive receptors. Ada (Ada Maria Isasi Diaz) maintains, U I 
don't want my diversity simply to be respected. I want it to challenge 
you, to rub against you. "(IB) 

Itfe must hold our own context in a creative tension with those of other persons 

we encounter. When we dare to allow their contexts to impact our context, 

then the theology and ethics that emerge will avoid the danger of parochial 

thought and will have a ring of truth which results from that dynamic 



g. Theology and Ethics Must Be Connect ional ; Feminist Liberation brings 
us to an understanding that all things are connected. There are no isolated 
persons, events, or ideas. Everything is connected to everything. We cannot 
develop or live our theology or ethics without seeing that there are 
connections among all aspects of our beings, among all the peoples o-f our 
global community, and among all parts of the created order. We no longer 
honor the dualisms, such as body vs. spirit, public vs. private, personal vs. 
political, enemies vs. friends, humans vs. creatures, etc. My travels in 
"enemy" countries (Nicaragua and the USSR) helped me to see how dualisms are 
defined for us by the powers that be. We are told who our enemies are to be. 
When we dare to transcend the barriers set up between us and our enemies we 
discover that there are many more connections than barriers between us. Such 
experiences inculcate in us a sense of global family which is not possible so 
long as some people are defined as enemies. 

Sally (one of the racial ethnic clergywomen who responded to the white, 
middle-class clergywomen' s work) indicates her strong sense of this 
connectional reality, especially as she works with international students on a 

Making Connections means understanding my own and my communities 
of affinities' particularities and moving from those centers to the 
disclosures of the particularities of others. It is the opposite of the 
dualistic hierarchies which seek to isolate and separate people... 

In the last eight years in campus ministry on a large urban, 
working class and racially diverse campus, this sense of "making 
connections" has been very strong and growing increasingly each year. 
This growth has not necessarily come as a result of the things I have 
done, but more often as a result of who I an and how I have enlarged and 
been enlarged through my own struggles and those of persons and groups 
not like me. . . . 

Having visited the homes of students halfway across the globe in 
some war-torn area or being confronted with the total physical 
vulnerability of the urban ghetto and its violence in my immediate 


workplace, I have come to feel that I have no time for those who seek 
safe places or want to retreat from risk, i.e., ideologies/theologies of 
the liberal or status quo constituencies. That does not mean that I am 
fearless! It just means I can't go home again. It also means that I 
prioritize my personal, spiritual and political relationships on a 
different basis, although I would be hard pressed to describe the 
difference as it has actually been realized. One manifestation, 
however, is that I no longer try to be everything... to everyone — 
colleagues, parents, students, lovers, friends, etc. I thereby have 
more with which to make the connections. 

This is the sense of connectedness to which Feminist Liberation beckons us. A 

consciousness of the interrelationship of all that we experience and perceive 

with all that we have not yet experienced enables us to participate in mending 

the social, global, and creational web which is life-sustaining for the whole 

of everything. 

h. Theology and Ethics hust Be Visionary : Feminist Liberation calls us 

to be a visionary people, to "see" the goals toward which we are moving. 

Without such vision, we thrash around with little intention or direction, 

reacting to injustices which those in power continue to perpetrate and in 

which we continue to collude. In Proverbs 29:8 (KJV) we read, "Where there is 

no vision, the people perish." How true! As Christian feminists, I believe 

that we get some sense of our vision when we are challenged by the life and 

ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Carter uses her childhood understanding of 

Jesus to articulate a vision for the transforming of our world into one of 

justice, love and peace: 

...I heard the Jesus-story as a love story, a tale about people taking 
people seriously, an image of life as we should live it together: a call 
to solidarity, our daily lives spilling over with concern for one 
another; advocacy for the poor, anger at hypocrisy and empty rituals and 
what I would later hear Adrienne Rich call the 'lies, secrets, and 
silence' which glue us together in societies dominated by unjust power- 
relations. I heard the Jesus-story as an invitation to marginalized 
people, outcasts, nonconformists, different sorts of .people, all those 
sitting outside the gates of our public, consumer-oriented lives. ... (19) 



Our new theology and ethics of the Kindom(20) -focuses its attention on those 
who have traditionally been excluded -from the theological and ethical canon. 
They are now to be at the center, -for it is in their midst that God is doing a 
new thing! I have had the strongest sense of this reality when I have 
traveled in countries in Latin America in which military dictatorships have 
used the most repressive means to control those in the opposition. While 
visiting in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia in 1980, I became aware of the 
courage, hope, and vision of the people, which was indefatigable in the face 
of incarceration, torture, and even death. It was through their faith that I 
experienced the Presence of God in a uniquely penetrating way. And so it is 
that this new theology and ethics will take us from our safe enclaves into our 
bodies, into the global arena, into creation, into relation with those who are 
different. It is an experience of conversion and transformation. 

With the healing of ourselves and the transforming of our theology and 
ethics which take place within the context of Feminist Liberation, we are 
ready to think together about how Feminist Liberation may be manifested in 
particular strategies related to our lives and ministries. We must develop 
ways in which the passionate living found in Feminist Liberation can be shared 
and expanded. In Chapter VII I will offer some suggestions for where we might 
begin our strategizing. 



1. Marie Augusta Neal, The Just Demands of the Poor; Essays o-f Socio-Theoloqy 
(New York: Paulist Press, 1987), p. 74. 

2. Walter Brueggemann, Disciplines o-f Readiness (Louisville: Presbyterian 
Church (U.S.A.), 1988), pp. 24-5. 

3. Letty Russell, Household o-f Freedom: Authority in Feminist Theology 
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1987), p. 93. 

4. Robert McAfee Brown has expanded ay notion o-f subversion in his comparison 
o-f subversion and super-version: 

So we begin to discern a content to praxis, although it is not a content 
neatly determined in advance; it will grow out o-f, respond to, condition 
and be conditioned by, the situation. But since it is praxis committed 
to the poor and to the trans-formation o-f the world, undertaken -from "the 
view from below," we can describe it, in the precise technical meaning 
o-f the word, as subversive action . Vertir (in Latin) means "to 
overthrow, to turn upside down." The Christians described in Acts 17:6 
fit this very well. "Those who turned the world upside down" is the way 
they were pictured. But from what stance does one turn the world upside 
down? There are two possibilities: one would be super-version , turning 
the world upside down "from above," for the benefit of the affluent and 
the powerful; the other possibility would be sub-version , turning the 
world upside down from below, for the benefit of the poor and powerless. 
Christian praxis is clearly sub-version, transformation "from below," on 
behalf, but finally by, "the wretched of the earth," the poor and 

Robert McAfee Brown, Theology in a New Key: Responding to Liberation Themes 
(Philadelphia: the Westminster Press, 1978), p. 72. 

5. Jane Meyerding, ed., We Are All Part of One Another: A Barbara Deming 
Reader (Philadelphia New Society Publishers, 1984), p. 206. 

6. Rita Nakashima Brock, "On Mirrors, Mists, and Murmurs," in Judith Paskow 
and Carol P. Christ, Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist 
Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989, p. 204. 

7. Elizabeth Tapia, "Who Am I" in Iben 6jarding and Katherine Kinnaaan, eds., 
No Lonoer Strangers A Resource for Woaen and Worship (Geneva: World Council of 
Churches Publications, 1983), p. 53. 

6. When aany of us were first -feainists and challenged exclusive language in 
worship, we found that we were left with a void when we were not always able 
to replace such language and iaagery with that which expressed our new 


9. I am indebted to all of my professors here at Episcopal Divinity School -for 
my understanding o-f the theological and ethical implications of Feminist 
Liberation, for it is in their lives and work that I see it so clearly 
embodied. They are Katie Geneva Cannon, Joanna Dewey, Carter Heyward, Sue 
Hiatt, and Fredrica Harris Tompsett. 

10. Beverly Wildung Harrison, "Agendas for a New Theological Ethic," in 
Churches in Struggle: Liberation Theologies and Social Change in North 
America , ed. by William Tabb (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1986), p. 90. 

11. Ada Maria Isasi Diaz and Yolanda Tarango, Hispanic Women: Prophetic Voice 
in the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 77. 

12. From a lecture at EDS in January, 1989. 

13. Elizabeth Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist 
Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), p. 163. 

14. Barbara Smith, ed., Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (New York: 
Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983), pp. 359-362. 

15. Beverly Harrison, Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social 
Ethics , ed. by Carol Robb (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), p. 13. 

16. Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (Freedom: The Crossing Press, 1984), p. 57. 

17. Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of 
God (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), pp. 91-93. 

18. The Mudflower Collective, God's Fierce Whimsy: Christian Feminism and 
Theological Education (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1985), pp. 25-6. 

19. Carter Heyward, "An Unfinished Symphony of Liberation: The Radicalization 
of Christian Feminist Spirituality for Justice," Journal of Associates for 
Religion and Intellectual Life (Winter: 3(2), 1986), p. 58. 

20. Kindom is a new way of reflecting what has long been reierred to as the 
Kingdom of God. It suggests an all encompassing understanding of the 
interconnection of all beings in creation as we move toward a new social 
vision. As Isasi Diaz and Tarango put it, "The word "kindom" makes it clearer 
that when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality in the world at 
large, we will all be sisters and brothers — kin to each other. 

Ada Maria Isasi Diaz and Yolanda Tarango, Hispanic Women . Footnote 8 on p. 


Chapter VII 

Strategies -for Moving Toward Feminist Liberation 
m the Presbyterian Church 

Working on this thesis, I have -formulated some strategies I believe will 
facilitate white, middle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen in our movement 
toward Feminist Liberation. To assume that it will happen without specific 
strategies would be naive. Such change requires some awareness of the issues 
of Liberal Feminism and Feminist Liberation. It also requires the support and 
input of a community committed to liberation and justice, and a willingness to 
take the risks involved in personal and social transformation. 

Each of the strategies below addresses some of the elements of Feminist 
Liberation that I have discussed in this thesis. This is not an exhaustive 
list of strategies. I will describe each strategy and indicate how I believe 
it would aid Presbyterian clergywomen in our journey toward Feminist 
Liberation. I will state how, in many cases, the building of coalitions would 
be necessary. I will not attempt to solve the budgetary issues. These would 
have to be worked out by the clergywomen committed to such strategies. (See 
Appendix L for the "mind map" of my development of these strategies.) 

Clergywomen' s History Project ; During my work at Episcopal Divinity 
School, especially with Katie Cannon, I have become mindful of the importance 
of the "ancient wisdom" available to us, but which we often fail to recognize. 
To turn our back on our people and history is death rendering. *4e cannot live 
isolated from our community and from its myth. White, «iddle-strata women are 
particularly vulnerable to this danger because we do not always have a strong 
sense of our community, much less its "ancient wisdom". 

As we approach the 35th anniversary of the ordination of women as 
ministers of the Word and Sacraments in the Presbyterian Church, we have an 

opportunity to recognize and honor our past. It is important -for the history 
of the -first Presbyterian clergywomen to be recorded. Each o-f these women has 
a story which can impact the -future o-f other clergywomen and o-f the 
Presbyterian Church. Too often our foremothers and foresisters are 
appreciated only after it is too late to hear their stories from their own 
lips. For this reason I am suggesting that we clergywomen initiate a project 
involving an extended video taped interview with each of the first 100 women 
who were ordained (combined) in the Presbyterian Church, U.S. and the United 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Since the first 100 clergywomen are all white, 
it is important also to interview the first ten women to be ordained from each 
racial group. The clergywomen from each racial group would be interviewed by 
one of the clergywoman from that racial group. 

The stories of the first clergywomen in our denomination would reflect 
much excitement and joy and also much grief, rejection, and oppression. Many 
of us assume that we know those stories, but without the specifics recorded by 
the women themselves and without some analysis of these stories, the value of 
these women's years of service, commitment and struggle will be lost. The 
analysis of the interviews would be done by the interviewers with a view 
toward what could be of most value to the denomination and to future 

The interviews eight include such issues as what led the women to become 
ministers, i.he relationship of their personal and vocational commitments, the 
political dynamics in the local church and at other levels of the 
denomination, spiritual and theological development, various types of ministry 
pursued, -feelings about having been in ministry, and any problems encountered 
in ministry, such as lack of acceptance, difficulty finding positions, 


compromises made, conflict between personal life choices and ministry, etc. 

Not only would such & project help clergywomen to learn from the wisdom 
of those who have gone before but these interviews would also invite an 
analysis of the problems that many have faced. On the basis of this study,, 
clergywomen could challenge the denomination to change its ways in relation to 
clergywomen. Such a study would also change our understanding of ourselves 
and would have an impact on our strategies. To make this project a reality, 
we would need to work with the Women Employed by the Church Committee (WEBC) 
and the Committee of Women of Color (CWC) of the Women's Ministry Unit of the 
F'resbyterian Church. 

This particular strategy would involve especially the following elements 
of Feminist Liberation: 

1) Community: We would be working together to gather and analyze this 
material, especially the Women Employed by the Church Committee, the Committee 
of Women of Color, and the women hired to do the interviewing. 

2) Particularity: To interview only the first 100 clergywomen in the 
F'resbyterian Church would not be satisfactory since we are all white. It is 
essential that the first clergywomen from each racial ethnic group be 
represented as well. Their experiences of being the first within their group 
are probably quite different from those of the white clergywomen. The 
strategies that -feminist clergywomen (of all races) might develop would be 
quite different if we take the racial ethnic clergywomen" s experiences as 
seriously as we have taken the experience of white clergywomen in the past. 
It is also not enough to take the first racial ethnic clergywomen "across the 
board." The experiences of the first Black clergywomen will not be the same 
as that of the first Asian, Hispanic, or Native American clergywomen. 


3) Transformation: Knowing our history is basic to working toward a 
trans-Formed present and -future within the Presbyterian Church. This strategy 
«akes clear the importance o-f transmitting to -future generations the history 
we are now making and have made during the last 35 years. 

Con-ferences on Privilege ; Because the concept o-f "privilege" is so hard 
•for white, Kiddle-strata Presbyterian clergywomen to comprehend and to act 
upon, it is crucial that some time, effort, and money be spent on holding some 
conferences which will focus on "privilege". Since it is, in fact, the 
privilege of persons in dominant groups in society to deny that privilege 
exists, some significant consciousness-raising is required to overcome the 
barriers that protect white, middle-strata clergywomen from the awareness of 
our race and class privilege. 

I would suggest a steering committee composed of a variety of 
clergywomen appointed by the Women Employed by the Church Committee of the 
Women's Ministry Unit. It would plan a large national conference of 
clergywomen focused on the issue of privilege in which the reality of 
privilege would be addressed by clergywomen, who for different reasons, have 
little or no privilege in the Presbyterian Church today; e.g., women of color, 
lesbians, single women, older women, unemployed women. A lot of time would be 
spent in small groups in which resistances and barriers to recognizing one's 
own privilege could be addressed. There would be opportunities for informal 
conversations and other consciousness-raising experiences. An important group 
to include in the planning of this conference would be the National 
Association of Presbyterian Clergywomen <NAPC) and the Committee of Women of 

This initial conference, designed primarily to raise issues, could be 


•followed by five years o-f regional conferences in which specific privileges 
would be explored: 

Year 1 Racial Privilege — These conferences would bring together racial 
ethnic clergywomen, Third World clergywomen (actually doing ministry in other 
parts of the world), and white, middle-strata clergywomen. We would meet in 
snail mixed groups to struggle with the racial privilege and non-privilege 
which divide us. There might be a couple of keynote speakers to lay out 
issues. Host of the time, however, would be spent in small groups. We would 
be attempting to transcend barriers between us as we worked together on 
strategies to address the issues of race privilege in the Presbyterian "Church 
and in society. We will elicit help and support from the Committee of Women 
of Color of the Women's Ministry Unit (National level of the Presbyterian 
Church) and the various national Racial Ethnic Caucuses and the Global 
Ministry Unit (It does all of the work relating to other parts of the world.), 

Year 2 Age and Able-Bodied Privilege — These conferences would bring 
together clergywomen of different ages who are both able-bodied and 
differently abled to discuss issues of age and disability that impede our 
liberation. The format of these conferences would be similar to that of the 
conferences on race privilege, but the focus would be different. To 
facilitate our work in this area, «e would consult with Presbyterians for 
Disabilities Concerns, Presbyterian Gray Panthers, and Presbyterian Health, 
education and Welfare Association. 

Year 3 Heterosexual Privilege — These conferences would bring together 
lesbian and heterosexual clergywomen to discuss ways in which sexual 
preference privilege impedes our liberation. These conferences would be very 


difficult because there are so -few lesbian clergywomen who are "out" within 
the church because the Presbyterian Church has declared that homosexuality is 
sinful and no one who is open may be ordained as a clergyperson or as an elder 
or deacon (the latter two offices are filled by lay persons in the PCUSA).(5ee 
Appendix M for the legislation.) This puts tremendous stress on lesbian 
clergywomen because even if there are no witch hunts, there are informal 
networks that may insure no employment for known lesbian clergy. These 
conferences might have to be smaller, and the lesbians might have to be moved 
into geographical areas where they are not serving. It is a very complex 
issue, and one way in which some of the problems would be resolved is to have 
these conferences envisioned and planned entirely by Presbyterian Lesbian 
Clergywomen (PLCW) with the support of Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay 

Year 4 Class Privilege — These conferences would bring together 
clergywomen from different class backgrounds. Since the issue of class shapes 
us when we are children and continues to separate us throughout our lives, it 
is important to focus on our early class identities. There might also be soae 
opportunity for discussion about how these issues continue to confuse us when 
some of us are victims of underemployment and unemployment while others move 
more smoothly along the career ladder. There are no groups in the 
Presbyterian Church working on the issues of class to whom we could look for 
support and input as we plan these conferences although the Presbyterian 
Health, Education and Welfare Association might be of some help. 

Year 5 Clergy Privilege — These conferences would explore the 
relationship of clergywomen and lay women as one of privilege and non- 
privilege. This would be a great culmination to the -five-year cycle, because 


I would envision that this same cycle o-f conferences would be sponsored -for 
lay women through Presbyterian Women, an organization o-f women's associations 
across the denomination. If this were to happen, it would be a significant 
step in the movement toward Feminist Liberation within the Presbyterian 
Church. It would mean that both lay women and clergywomen would be dealing 
with the issues of privilege in parallel conferences over a four-year period 
and then end by dealing with power dynamics between clergy and lay. These are 
rarely dealt with in any church setting. Included in this conference would be 
not only Presbyterian Women but also lay employees of the Presbyterian Church 
at all levels, e.g., secretaries, educators, musicians. 

Thinking about this cycle of conferences, I wonder whether a closing 
national conference might be an appropriate way to culminate this endeavor to 
understand our privilege better and to begin to reduce the power differentials 
among women within the Presbyterian Church. If we were to come out of these 
conferences with commitments and tools to accomplish this task, then we, 
indeed, would have something important to share with our sisters in other 
denominations and with those feminists outside the church. (Certainly while 
planning such a cycle of conferences, we would also want to check with 
clergywomen in other denominations who might have already planned conferences 
on privilege in order to gain from their experience.) 

The elements of Feminist Liberation addressed in this strategy would be: 
1) Marginality: In «*ch conference those with little or no privilege 
would be the ones who would do the naming. They would be central to the 
process of identifying the reality of privilege which results in oppression 
and of recommending the process of liberation on which all clergywomen need to 
be working. Those on the margin would move to the center of these liberative 



2) Interdependence: It would become obvious as we move through these 
conferences that we are interdependent in both positive and negative ways. 
The well being o-f each person is tied to that of the rest of us. 

3) Transformation: Through the process of becoming mindful of the 
reality of privilege and of how such power dynamics can be diminished, all of 
us will be better equipped to contribute to transformation in our own lives, 
in the lives of our communities and in the society as a whole. 

4) Particularity: In becoming aware of the differentials in privilege, 
we clergywomen would become cognizant of the particularities which play a 
significant role in our lives. To deal with the issue of privilege, we must 
be able to name our own particularities and recognise those of others. 

5) Revolutionary Change: These conferences would make way for women to 
become radicalized and to move, through a power analysis, to counteract the 
oppressive relationships which predominate in the church and in the society 

Travel Seminars : Since I consider travel crucial to the whole process 
of Feminist Liberation, it is logical that I would suggest that we find ways 
to help clergywomen travel outside this country. (1) The best plan, in my 
estimation, would be for small groups of no more than ten Presbyterian 
clergywomen to travel together in various parts of the Third World. There 
might be some occasions when clergywomen from other denominations would be 
invited to participate in these trips. Each group would have to have at least 
one-third racial ethnic clergywomen and under »ost circumstances the groups 
would be led administratively by racial ethnic clergywomen. (2) The actual 
period in the Third World countries would be under the leadership of 
clergywomen/theologians from those countries, and the time would be divided 


between travel and classes. Each group would do preparatory reading, attend 
an orientation session be-Fore departure, and participate in a de-briefing a 
month after returning to the U.S. There would be an expectation that upon 
their return, these clergywomen would share their learnings with others in 
this country, especially other clergywomen. 

Some of the things that I hope would be accomplished through such travel 
would include jarring of consciousness, increasing understanding of global 
political and economic issues, and learning about the theological and ethical 
issues emerging among the women of the area. 

The elements of Feminist Liberation which would be addressed through 
this strategy would include: 

1) Global Awareness: The clergywomen would learn how small this world is 
and how great is the impact of the foreign relations of the United States. 
Awareness of being part of the global family would no longer be an 
abstraction, but rather an experienced reality. 

2) Marginality: Through having racial ethnic women from here and abroad, 
as leaders for the seminars, the experience of those who are marginal, by the 
world's standards, would become central within the group. 

3) Interdependence: It would become very clear in traveling how much we 
human beings are connected across national and cultural barriers. This would 
be felt, on the emotional level, in that the white women would be putting our 
well being in the hands of those with whom traditionally we would not have 
been closely related. 

Seminary Quarter for Women : There was the Seminary Quarter at 
Grailville (SOAG) from 1974 to 1978 in which 84 women seminarians of various 
denominations participated. SOAG was a brilliant program that embodied many 


•feminist ideals and was significant in the future lives and ministries o-f many 

women. It allowed seminary women to spend a summer together and get credit 

through United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. As described in Your 

Daughters Shall Prophesy , SOAG was a model program with the -following 


— women theologians as role models 

— the building of a living/learning community in which everyone shares 

in the decision-making by which the group constitutes itself 
— a self-directed learning model in which individuals and groups focus 

their own questions and methods of study 
— a wholistic and experimental approach to learning, uniting intellect 

and emotion, using all modes of perception and expression 
— a focus on feminist perspectives, both in critiquing traditional 

studies and in breaking new ground by theological reflection on 

women's experience. (3) 

The major problems facing this program were that it had to meet the challenge 
that the program remained a predominantly white, middle-strata women's 
experience, to deal with the tension between self-directed study and covering 
specific content required by denominations, and to struggle to get financial 
backing. (4) 

Whether as Presbyterians alone, or as an ecumenical endeavor, we need to 
develop a program modeled after the best of SOAG. One of the primary 
endeavors of such a program should be to involve racial ethnic women 
seminarians and clergywomen/seminary professors in the organizing, planning, 
and implementing of the program from the beginning. I would think that each 
year the program might be in a different location of the country, in different 
types of settings, *o that flif+erent ^women could and *ould take advantage of 

This type of program would provide women seminarians with exposure to 
Feminist Liberation early in their careers. The leadership team would be made 



up of & mix o-f women of color and white women, seminary professors and parish 
ministers, U.S. citizens and citizens of Third World countries, lesbians and 
heterosexuals, etc. It is important that women who have been teaching and/or 
in ministry for a period of time have the opportunity to share from their 
experience with seminarians while also learning from the "new generation" of 
seminarians. This program would be a "laboratory" in which new paradigms and 
strategies of Feminist Liberation could be developed and tested. The students 
and the leaders would be strengthened in their understanding of, commitment 
to, and embodiment of Feminist Liberation. 

The elements of Feminist Liberation which would be addressed in this 
program are as follow: 

1) Community: The teaching and learning would be accomplished by both 
students and resource persons in such a way as to develop a community of 
learning. The communal nature of Feminist Liberation will be experienced 
directly rather than merely discussed. The hope is that this would inform the 
women as to how theological and ethical perspectives are developed within 
community rather than by isolated individuals. 

2) Transformation: This program would provide an alternative worldview, 
especially in contrast to most theological education within the Presbyterian 
Church. It is through embracing such a worldview that one gains the tools to 
bring about transformation in the church and the wider society. The need for 
justice as a norm for one's theology and ethics would become profoundly clear. 

3. Interdependence: Living in a community of learning -for a summer would 
provide a powerful opportunity *for the women to learn how what happens to one 
person impacts everyone. 

Lesbian Clergy Political Caucus : There has been a little organizing done 


among lesbian clergywomen in the Presbyterian Church. There needs to be a 
concerted effort made to gather lesbian clergywomen together and to strategize 
about what we can do within the Presbyterian Church. Lesbian clergywomen, on 
the whole, are a very politically keen group. Our group includes some of the 
brightest and best of the Presbyterian clergywomen, but our voices have been 
silenced by the oppression o-f heterosexism. Such a group would give us voice. 

Lesbianism has given me and other lesbian clergywomen a special lens 
through which to look at the Presbyterian Church and the political dynamics we 
•find there. (5) Each way in which we have little or no privilege gives us one 
■ore lens through which we can see more clearly the power dynamics in our 
church and society. Because o-f the virulent nature o-f the oppression against 
lesbians and gay men within the Presbyterian Church, the lens o-f lesbianism 
can provide a stunning clarity. The vulnerability of being lesbian in 
heterosexist patriarchy also means that lesbians have less privilege to lose. 
For this reason, we may be more willing, at times, to take risks involved in 
embracing Feminist Liberation. 

Because of our choices, we lesbians challenge the heterosexist 
assumptions of this society. We are threatening to many; therefore we 
experience homophobic responses. As a result, most lesbian clergywomen have 
been forced to "pass" as heterosexuals, except with our «ost trusted friends 
and colleagues. Only one clergywoman is "fully "out" in the Presbyterian 
Church! Liberal Feminism supports our passing by teaching that what we "do in 
bed" should not «ake any difference. Liberal Feminism calls us to «end the 
crack in the pot by covering up the contradiction that, although it should not 
■ake any difference what we "do in bed"; we, in -fact, will be punished if it 
is revealed. We reinforce this liberal "cover up" in our failure to see and 


acknowledge the contradiction. For example, when asked about lesbian 

clergywomen who "come out" and their -future role within the Presbyterian 

Church, one of the clergywomen in my study responded: 

If lesbianism or heterosexism becomes the key focus in feminist 
liberation, the battle is lost. .. .Given the setting of the Church, if a 
number of lesbian clergywomen come out in the PCUSA and then take up the 
fight of feminist liberation, the focus will be shifted from the main 
issue to that of homosexuality. The battle lines will be drawn, and 
feminist liberation becomes synonymous with lesbianism. As a result, 
there probably would be a loss of support from feminist clergywomen. 

Living as a lesbian clergywoman for the last 15 years has instilled in 
me a growing hermeneutic of suspicion which can be contained no longer. 
Liberal Feminism generates denial and confusion within me and leaves me with 
contradictions which provide me with none of the spiritual sustenance I need. 
Feminist Liberation offers me passionate living, joy, and vision. 

When lesbian clergywomen make a choice for passionate living, we can see 
more clearly what is going on politically because we are pushing out through 
the cracks in the liberal pot. We car, begin to recognize and question the 
assumptions that have heretofore contained us. Bringing lesbian clergywomen 
together to study the liberalism that has contained most of us might empower 
us to act politically with more effectiveness. We might see more clearly the 
broad range of issues which are connected in our lives and thus .understand 
better how Feminist Liberation benefits everyone, not only lesbians. - - 

It also is important that lesbian clergywomen provide * "home" "for each 
other. I recently have come to a renewed awareness that most of us search for 
"home" most of our lives. We can never go home in the sense of going back to 
what is often an idealized •emory of the past, a home which probably never 
existed. I want to affirm the notion that our life journey is home. <6> This 
is particularly important for lesbian clergywomen who have often been cut off 


-from home in various ways. Our communal participation in La Luc ha — the 
struggle which is life itself — becomes home. Home is where we are now, 
especially when we are free to love and accept ourselves as we are. 

The elements of Feminist Liberation addressed in this effort are as 

1) Revolutionary Change: The empowering of lesbian clergywomen in the 
Presbyterian Church would, in and of itself, be revolutionary. The changes 
resulting from the political work done by lesbians would be multitudinous and 
profound in nature. Certainly it would be a significant step toward turning 
upside down the culture of domination. 

2) Embodiment: Lesbianism is a way of embodying the whole reality of 
Feminist Liberation. Therefore the empowering of a group of lesbian feminist 
clergywomen must deal with embodiment. Our valuing of an embodied theology 
and ethics in passionate living is a way of manifesting embodiment. 

3) Marginality: Lesbian clergywomen are marginal in the Presbyterian 
Church. This program to organize lesbians brings us to the center in the 
struggle to bring liberation and justice to the church as well as to the 

4) Particularity: Within such a caucus, lesbian clergywomen would be 
able to affirm our own particularity and to gain the strength to "come out". 
In "coming -out", there would be wore possibilities of sharing our 
particularities with others. 

Intensive One-honth Study Leave Program : Since each clergywoman normally 
receives two weeks of paid study leave each year which can be accumulated up 
to eight weeks, it is reasonable to imagine the possibility of clergywomen 
attending a month-long program. Such a program would be focused on Feminist 


Liberation. Each month-long experience would highlight one element of 
Feminist Liberation, such as embodiment, revolutionary change, particularity, 
interdependence. There would be intensive courses involving self-learning 
through a variety of methods (e.g., formal presentations from resource 
persons, small group activities, body movement, artistic expression, 
liturgical experiences.) When possible, the leadership teams of these 
programs would include white and racial ethnic clergywomen and seminary 

This program would be accredited through a seminary so that the women 
could receive seminary credit to be applied later to post-graduate work. 
These study leaves could very well constitute feeder programs into the 
Feminist Liberation D. Min. degree programs in seminaries, such as Episcopal 
Divinity School and San Francisco Theological Seminary. (7) Three of these 
month-long study programs would be offered annually at different times of the 
year in different parts of the country with different areas of focus. Every 
effort would be made to obtain scholarship funds to enable clergywomen who are 
underemployed or unemployed to participate in this program. 

Each of the elements of Feminist Liberation would be covered in a three- 
year cycle of study leave programs. 

Presbytery and Synod Clusters : To provide a denomination-wide network 
of support *nd communication for those committed to Feminist Liberation, it is 
imperative that clusters of clergywomen be gathered within presbyteries, among 
presbyteries or even Synodwide. <8> These clusters Mould be crucial in the 
sense that they would provide a place in which clergywomen could raise, 
explore, struggle with, and live with issues which Feminist Liberation poses. 
In addition, these clusters would be a place in which learnings from the 


programs mentioned in this chapter could be shared with other clergywomen, 
especially those newly ordained. 

This grassroots organising plan would be particularly appropriate 
because it could be linked to the organizational structure of Presbyterian 
Women, the group of lay women organized at all levels of the Presbyterian 
Church. If this program of Feminist Liberation clusters can be supported by 
staff women around the country, attached to the Women's Ministry Unit, it can 
be more easily facilitated than if it were linked to the presbyteries where 
there might be some resistance and little or no staffing provided. This model 
would also allow for closer and more trusting relationships between 
clergywomen and lay women to develop because the same staff persons would be 
working with both groups. 

The elements of Feminist Liberation which this program would address are 
as follow: 

1) Community: This cluster program would be the living out of the 
importance of the social web for our strategizing, organizing, healing and 
transforming. It would be evidence that we can not bring about change or live 
our lives in isolation -from each other. We need to reach out not only to 
those most like us but also to others who are quite different yet who may have 
some of the same concerns and commitments. 

2) Interdependence: Especially in building coalitions between 
clergyworoen and lay women, our interdependence would be experienced. 

3) Revolutionary change: If such ^coalitions between clergywomen and lay 
women do develop, the Presbyterian Church's transformation will be well 

Conclusion: A Call to the Passionate Revolution : There are those who 


•ay ask, "Why bother with all of these strategies when they may never get 

implemented?" We do not have the luxury of deciding whether or not we will 

plan for ways in which we can embody the vision of Feminist Liberation in our 

world. We must! On a recent panel about Feminist Liberation, Joanna Kadi, a 

student at Episcopal Divinity School, said, "We are out to make 

revolutions. . .Political activism must go with Feminist Liberation Theology. 

We must get to the streets and respond to the wants and needs of the common 

people." Carter also points us in this direction when she writes, "And 'I 

love you 7 means, let the revolution begin! "(9) 

We are already involved in a revolution! When we began to ask questions 

about the very nature of God, it was a new kind of revolution, as Anne Hebrew 

Bennett's writings reflect: 

Granted that ideas about God have changed in revolutionary ways since 
Sarah and Abraham set out for an unknown land; yet there is something 
new, wholly new, a woman's challenge to the Judeo-Chr istian tradition, 
Scriptures, and structures. Women are taking seriously the commonplace 
that a culture's idea of divinity is central not only to that culture's 
religious life but also to its social/political/f amilial institutions 
and relationships. Women are looking at the male God who has dominated 
the Judeo-Christian world and who is a fundamental part of our culture, 
and women are seeing in that male God the instrument of our 
invisibility, our oppression, our pain. (10) 

And I might add that that male God is also the instrument of the invisibility, 

oppression, and pain of many other marginalized persons around the world. We 

have already opened up Pandora's Box, (11) and we cannot close it again. We 

can try to ignore the chaos. We can bury our beads in the sand out of fear. 

We can hide our eyes from the pain surrounding us and in us; but when we peek, 

we will find the potential revolution still there. We have been taught in our 

culture that revolution is a negative and dangerous reality, but do we have to 

accept that narrow conceptualization? In aost ways our world is a mess. Why 



can't we see the revolution — the turning upside down — of such a world as 
glorious and redemptive? Why can't we discover as did Pandora, when she 
opened up the box, that hope is -found in the midst of the mess? 

I think that we often shrink from the vision of revolution, because we 
think of it as synonymous with violence, and sometimes it is. But my sisters, 
we are already involved in violence. We do not need to pick up a gun to shoot 
someone to be involved in violence. Living our lives as usual, we contribute 
to violence. We cannot be involved passively in liberation. Our passivity 
only contributes to the status quo — and it is a violent status quo. You and I 
can fail to see this reality because much of the oppression in our world is 
hidden from us. If each day we are not finding significant ways to counter 
the violence in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our country and around 
the world, we are helping to escalate the violence. People are dying daily of 
starvation, torture, domestic abuse, drugs, and neglect in our own communities 
and elsewhere in the world. And there are those who wish they were dead 
because they are lonely, forgotten, sick, alienated, and addicted. They too 
are in our own homes and everywhere else in the world. 

In contrast to this reality, why is revolution such a frightening 
vision? Could it be that the powers that be have planned it that way? How do 
we learn to perceive clearly what is at stake in our refusals to see? 
Feminist Liberation challenges us to see, to think, to act in revolutionary 
ways to help bring in the day of peace, love, justice and liberation in our 
world. Yes, there are risks, but they are not as great as the ones we face in 
this very moment. We can not allow our ■emories of the violence, done in our 
name each day and many times with our tacit consent, to fade. It is re- 
membering our world through deeds of justice, through commitments to 


liberation, through acts o-f love-making that the revolution comes. Indeed, 
let the revolution begin! 



1. As I mentioned in Chapter IV, I am well aware that there is a class issue 
involved in recommending travel seminars as a means -for moving into Feminist 
Liberation. Rather than dismiss this means for raising consciousness, I would 
rather insure means by which clergywomen, with little or no -financial capacity 
could participate in such seminars. 

2. To guarantee that this would not just be another "rip off" of racial ethnic 
women to the benefit of white women,, the administrators of the program would 
be given a small stipend in addition to their travel expenses being covered. 

3. The Cornwall Collective, Your Daughters Shall Prophesy; Feminist 
Alternatives in Theological Education (New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1980), pp. 

4. Ibid., p. 140. 

5. One of my colleagues at EDS, Judith Carpenter, also suggested the many- 
facets of a stone as another way of imaging the increased clarity one gains 
from the vantage point of various experiences of no-privilege. 

6. I am indebted to Nelle Morton who has developed the notion of the life 
journey as home building on Ruth Duck's words, "we are still God's people, the 
journey is our home," found in her feminist hymn, "Lead on, Cloud of 

Nelle Morton, The Journey Is Home (Boston: Beacon Press, 1985), p. xvii. 

7. SFTS has had a D.Min. focused on feminist issues, but it is presently 

8. There are 183 presbyteries and 16 synods across the country and Puerto 
Rico. Each presbytery includes representatives (clergy and lay) from the 
local churches in a given geographical area. Synods are composed of the 
presbyteries generally within one or more state(s). 

9. Carter Heyward, The Redemption of God: A Theology of Mutual Relation 
(Washington: University Press of America, 1982), p. 162. 

•- ** 

10. Anne McGrew Bennett <ed. by Mary E. Hunt), From Woman-Pain to Vtoman- 

Vision: Writings in Feminist Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), p. 

11. I had used Fibber McGee's closet at this point until Ann DuBois suggested 
Pandora's Box, which is a «uch better fit -for this thesis. 



Appendix A 
Memories o-f Annette Wall on Pre-CEW days in Philadelphia 

When I began attending the luncheon meetings at the Witherspoon 
Building, the topics under discussion were more likely to cover recipes, diets 
and child rearing practices than employee concerns, grievances, problems, 
etc. .. Probably the result o-f my wheelings and dealings with various peace 
organizations (she was secretary with the Emergency Ministry on Conscience and 
War), it occurred to me that the Women's Committee might be the medium -for 
some of the solutions to what I saw as injustices visited on the non- 
executives by everyone who had more power which was just about everybody in 
the place, including the stray dog who used to sneak into our lobby -from time 
to time. .. although it was clear that the Women" s Committee was not even close 
to a feminist perspective, we were able to obtain enough of a majority to 
represent a constituency to legitimize an approach to the Professional Women's 
Caucus... the Professional Women's Caucus had opened its arms to take in the 
ragtag stragglers of non-professional, non-e;;ecs. 

Yet back at the Witherspoon Building the Ladies Club attitude still 
prevailed at the meetings. When the committee's president began to understand 
the implications of Knsheim (a Presbyterian Conference Center in Philadelphia 
where the Professional Women's Caucus had met), she felt the committee's 
future might be too time consuming &nd she resigned. I was elected and began 
efforts to turn member interest away from recipes for a low-fat Chicken Soup 
and toward a more pragmatic wider political view. 

I was meeting with little success until the "Ins", true to the gospel 
according to Aimsky ("Don't worry about creating issues for your 
constituency, the Have's will do it for you."), stepped in, and opened Sesame 
as wide as we could ever want. I came to work one morning to find management 
had distributed throughout the building, in very office, on every desk, in 
every nook and cranny, proposed plans for handling the future restructuring. 
While the Execs were to receive benefits from here to forever, provisions for 
the nons (nonexecs) seemed limited to little beyond a goodbye wave. 
Management, in its infinite arrogance, stupidity, and total indifference to 
the human factor, had managed to tap into the mother lode of the conscience of 
the UPCUSA at the Witherspoon Building. The Women's Committee called an open 
luncheon meeting for that day, and, despite the last minute invitation, the 
large conference room where it was held overflowed with both non-execs and 
embarrassed execs. The Women's Committee had, at last, outgrown its church- 
lady limitations. 

Appendix B 
CEW Prospectus and Purpose October, 1972 

The National Steering Committee o-f CEW, meeting at Krisheim Study Center 
in Philadelphia on September 11, 12, and 13, adopted the -following prospectus 
and proposal to obtain an office and funding in the new Vocation Agency o-f the 

In January o-f 1971, the Task Force on Women appointed a committee to 
convene women ministers, Christian educators and other women professionally 
employed by the church. 

A study o-f women ministers revealed that although the church had agreed 
to ordain women, it had not concerned itself with their employment after 
ordination nor had it provided access to the same opportunities in ministry 
enjoyed by men. 

Women have never served a church larger than a 250 membership as the 
sole or senior pastor. Currently, only 16 clergywomen serve as sole or senior 
pastor; 23 are undesignated (clergy not working in parishes or staff 
positions). Only four committees of the national church have women ministers 
serving on them, only one on a major agency. 

It has also become clear that women brought up in this culture which 
socializes boys and girls quite differently have re-forming contributions to 
make to theology, pastoral counseling, social action, teaching and 
administration. The gifts they bring are neither unavailable nor alien to 
men, only unencouraged. Seminaries have been male-oriented and have given 
scant attention to the historic and contemporary contributions or styles of 

Attempts to reach those Christian educators who are women disclosed that 
the church has no complete register of those who carry out its educational 
ministry. The only complete up-to-date listing of church professionals is one 
for ministers. What corporate responsibility does the church have for these 
others, most of them women? 

Further, in a church which has denied both the existence of these 
problems and the significance of the statistical and experiential facts 
gathered, women need a support community in which their perception can be 
validated and through which they can affirm all women throughout the churches 
and the secular world. 

A year later the Task Force aembers began to raise many questions 
regarding the women employed by the church in secretarial and clerical jobs 
(those traditionally known as non-professional). A survey was conducted using 
a questionnaire developed with the women themselves. The results showed that 
women do indeed want »ore voice in decisions that affect them and that 
personnel policies need to be reviewed and revised. 

It was also discovered through studies of the handbooks for executives 
and staff in the Boards and Agencies that wide discrepancies exist between the 
attitudes of the church toward each group. The church assumes the executive 
is mature, responsible and trustworthy — in contrast to its prevailing attitude 
that the other staff is none of these and «ust, therefore, be closely 
regulated. Yet surveys show that many of these women whom the church, by its 

treatment, has characterized as irresponsible have served the church for many 
years and in many offices have "broken in" numerous executives. 

There are also wide discrepancies between secretarial and executive 
salaries and fringe benefits, such as vacation time, continuing education 
opportunities, study leave, etc. Perhaps the church cannot deal immediately 
with salaries; it can remedy the wide gap in its provision of benefits. 

The church has unquestioningly and almost vigorously adopted the class 
system of society. Should we be proud that we borrow our pay scale from the 
secular world? Should we be proud that we borrow the assumptions about women 
from the same source? Every profession defines man as that which leads, woman 
as that which is led. Women are assigned a role secondary to men, and it is 
this assignment which legitimizes women's lower pay, lessened status and the 
lack of authority. Women have begun to ask why women's lower pay, lessened 
status and lack of authority. Women have begun to ask why. 

In January, 1972, the professional and non-professional women's groups 
merged to form the Church Employed Women's organization (CEW) . To continue in 
two separate groups would have perpetuated the divisions imposed on us by 
society. The group has many separate agendas but a common concern for women 
and the health of the church. 

During the entire period of restructuring, CEW, through staff and the 
Task Force, tried to introduce their concerns to the Commission on 
Restructuring and its various sub-committees. Sometimes they were heard. At 
other times they were not. As the 184th General Assembly (1972) met, we were 
told that CEW would have a place and a staff in the Vocation Agency. 

Tnrough this General Assembly, the church recognized the existence of 
CEW and referred its 1972 h-j.dqet to the General Council which, in turn, 
referred it to the GAMC where it is to be heard in October. Meanwhile, the 
structural questions were re+erred to the Commission on Restructuring which 
received them without comment. A verbal "gentleman's agreement" was made: 
Just as the Task Force was to have a Consulting Committee in the Program 
Agency, CEW would have a Consulting Committee in the Vocation Agency. Since 
then we have found no written evidence nor has the agreement been passed on to 
the Vocation Agency in any form. We therefore submit these papers in good 
faith that the past year's negotiation had meaning and that the verbal 
agreements will be honored. 

We therefore submit to the Vocation Agency the following budget for the 
establishment of an Office for Employed Women in the Vocation Agency with a 
Consulting Committee to advise the Vocation Agency in all matters relating to 
the concerns of employed women. There are no specific programs offered by the 
church now for these women in the established structures and no programs for 
the church-at-large in matters relating to sexism. 

The church has spoken boldly of its concern which grows out of its 
commitment to Christ for all these who are oppressed or discriminated against. 
It has spoken boldly of freedom in Christ, of the loving community, of 
equality and justice and of self-determination. 

But the eyes of the church have a history of astigmatism, focusing on 
foreign missions, on distant injustices. The church began its concern for 
others by sending missionaries to other lands. It then moved its mission to 
the dispossessed in this country. Only recently has it begun to look within. 

An equal employment statement and committee is only a beginning. Racism 

and sexism run deeper than -fair representation and statistical quotas. They 
command our intellect and determine our life styles. toe must be fearless 
enough in our -faith to root out these sexist/racist practices and 
compassionate enough to care about all those affected by such practice. The 
world is awake to our struggle. If we ourselves harbor injustice within, how 
then can we bear witness to that which is loose without? 

The Task Force works on the issues in general. It is therefore fitting 
that it asked CEW to turn its attention to employed women in particular. The 
Task Force members' 1 belief in self-determination mandated that they entrust 
these issues to the women involved. Thus, CEW now addresses these concerns to 
the church 

Other institutions in our society are being forced to respond to these 
issues by law and pending litigation may soon impose a like enforcement in the 
church. The church has a. need to hear from these women whose problems are 
being so closely scrutinized by the church. It has a need to work with them 
for its reform. The health of the church and the credibility of its faith 
depend on our casting out this beam in our own eye. 

The books are clear in relation to the church's intent regarding women. 
We hope that what legal measures have imposed on the secular world. Christian 
Borality will impose or. the religious. 

Serving Employed Women and the Church 

We believe that by grace we are free to be co-creators with God and all 
people. If we are co-creators with God, we can be nothing less in relation to 
any man. We believe that all persons are equal and that in the life of the 
church should be so seen and treated. We witness to the church and the world 
as advocates for all women seeking justice for employed women within church 
structures and joining those working for justice in other structures. 

The church in the past has been both an instrument of women's liberation 
as well as subordination. Will the church continue to perpetuate 
subordination by its unchallenged traditions and "benign neglect"? Or, will 
the church choose to join those forces of the Holy Spirit which throughout 
Salvation History have struggled to liberate women? 

The constituency of Church Employed Women in the UF'CUSA includes: 
ordained ministers, educators (DCEs, seminary and college personnel;, 
secretaries, lay employees (para-professionals), musicians, agency and 
judicatory staff, seminarians, retired employees, mission personnel, and 
others employed by the church. 

The purposes of Church Employed Women are: 

1. Developing among employed women a community for psychological 
and economic support. 

2. Opening of doors for the contributions and influence of church 
employed women so that the church no longer need be deprived 

of the gifts of these women. 

3. Acting as advocates for all women. 

4. Humanizing our various work systems. 

5. Taking our place beside and working with employed women of 
other institutions. 

Because equal employment opportunity is a primary concern in the 
restructuring of the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. and acted upon by the 

Because the need -for expanded job opportunities, more equitable 
advancement and improved personnel policies has been documented and 
demonstrated by the Task Force on Women and by Church Employed Women 
themselves and acted upon by the General Assembly; 

And because o-f the e-f-forts of employed women scattered throughout the 
church who need a -focal center and a way to relate to the ongoing work of the 
institution in order to be effective; 

Church Employed Women has sought an office and funding in the New 
Vocation Agency. 

(CEW never was in the Vocation Agency structure as COWAC was in the Program 
Agency structure. I believe to pacify us, the GMAC gave us $5,000 from the 
Salvage Fund at the end of 1972. This money was used to print a brochure to 
recruit members, to survey constituency groups, and to hold regional 
meetings. ) 

Appendix C 

Church Employed nomen 




Linda B. Brebner 
Room 1244 

475 Riverside Drive 
New York, NY 10027 

Fay Noack 
P. 0. Box 96 
Rolla, MO 65401 

Church Employed Women, an organization whose 
membership reached 350 in 1974, has experience 
and expertise in the structures of the United 
Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. which we are happy 
to offer for reflection, contact, and exchange 
to women of other churches and other nations. 

In 1971-72, when we were known as the Profes- 
sional Women's Caucus, we 

—met as a few women clergy, Christian educa- 
tors, and laity at General Assembly (6. A.) 
thanks to the Task Force on Women of the 

—constituted a working steering committee 
of employed and employable women; 

—sent delegates to Ministerial Placement 
workshops, offices, and committees to raise 
questions and make proposals for servicing 

—proposed to the 6. A. Task Force on Women 
that the W.C.C. be overtured by our denomi- 
nation to convene a conference on sexism 
in churches and in society; 

—built support, job, and newsletter networks 
in regions and at General Assembly; 

—initiated compensation legislation reform 
and advocated with the G.A. Task Force on 
Women the proposals for United Presbyterian 
Pension Reform. 

In 1972-73, we joined with a group of clerical 
employees from national denominational offices 
to become known as Church Employed Women (CEW). 
From that time, we 

—organized five regional mettings of employed 
women in clergy, Christian education, secre- 
tarial, overseas positions to identify prob- 
lems and elect representatives to a national 
steering committee; 
—asked the Eastern Regional Newsletter editor 
to publish a national newsletter; 

•surveyed local church secretaries to find 
that out of 2,488 who returned questionnaires 
37% were over SO years old 
85% were not on any private pension plan 
35% were not having any church funds paid 
into the government social security 
system for them (in many cases this 
was propably illegal on the part of 
the church) 
11% only indicated that the church 
provided access to medical plan 
25% received no paid vacation 
50% of the full-time (40 hours a week) 
and nearly all of the part-time 
(though some work 30-35 hours) re- 
less than $5,000 a year (welfare 
family level in the U.S.A.) 

— surveyed women in Christian education to 
find that out of 193 returns: 
— the median salary per year was about 
$7500 as compared with their senior pas- 
tor colleagues at $15,500 and associate 
pastor colleagues at $11,500 
—that housing and fringe benefits are con- 
siderably less for educators than for 
pastors and in many cases educators re- 
ceive no housing or other fringe benefits 

— wrote Overtures C and D, which were passed by 
the G.A., requiring nominating (calling) com- 
mittees seeking pastors for local churches 
and staff for presbyteries to report to the 
presbytery asked to approve the call whether 
or not the committee has complied with the 
Church's equal employment opportunity pro- 
gram (considering persons for jobs without 
regard to race, ethnic origin, sex, or mari- 
tal status). Committees are also instructed 
to use the services of official Church groups 
representing minorities and women in the 
hiring process; 

— wrote the legislation on non-ordained Per- 
sonnel Committees which passed the G.A. and 
requires presbyteries to review the employ- 
ment situations and terms for these employees 
and to set standards and policies; 

— negotiated through a 20-woman sit-in a Con- 
sulting Committee on Employed Women to the 
Vocation Agency, to which CEW sends 5 of 12 
members (others are from the Vocation Agency 
Board, Third World Women, and Headquarters 
Staff Association); 

--carried out a clergywomen 's therapeutic 

— advocated the placement of clergywomen and 
laywomen at presbytery, synod, and national 
levels in the denomination's restructuring 
process. (One clergywomen and only a few 
laywomen — mainly in women's program and Chris- 
tian education—had been visible in these 
judicatories when the process began.); 

—negotiated feminist resource persons and 
courses into synod summer schools. 

In 1973-74, we 

—nominated clergy and lay women to the Per- 
manent Nominating Committee of the G.A. for 
the second time— we hope for better results! 

—carried on with the writing of women's af- 
firmative action program guidelines for the 
Office of Equal Employment Opportunity of the 
G.A. and negotiated consulting service con- 
tracts on writing guidelines for Ministerial 
Relations committees, compiling an equal op- 
portunity and affirmative action bibliography 
on women, designing surveys of the employment 
(and unemployment ) experiences of female 
clergy, licensees, seminarians. There are 
plans for other consulting service contracts 
as well . 

•-did a survey on clergywomen for the Compensa- 
tion Committee of the G.A. With 67 returns 
(out of 144 clergywomen), we discovered that: 
— all in congregational positions were at 
the median pastor 's salary for the en- 
tire denomination or lower — all the way 
down to nothing for doing pastoral work 
— less than half listed having housing and 
pension benefits (which are usual for 
male pastors) 
— about half received car or travel allow- 
—only a third had continuing education as 

a benefit 
— only one-sixth listed vacation (some are 
unemployed, some work temporarily as a 
waitress, librarian, day-care worker; 
some can find only part-time church work; 
some have 2 or 2 church jobs) 
— none get maternity leave or unemployment 
compensation (significant issues for our 
— those who work as co-pastors with their 
husbands (3 couples) either receive half 
salary and half pension for full-time 
work or no salary and no pension but 
an annual baby-sitting allowance. 

— provided CEW resource people to the Council 
on Administrative Services (which trains 
middle judicatories in hiring processes); 

— gained official autonomous status as an or- 
ganization related to our denomination and 
represented ourselves at the Moderator's 
Conference ; 

—re-organized ourselves by synods to reflect 
the new distribution-of -power structure in 
our denomination; 

-carried out a model of a church secretaries' 

-negotiated with the newly formed national 

Council on Women and the Church for $10,000 

program grant for two women to carry out a 

rural team ministry; 
-recommended to the Consulting Committee on 

Employed Women the following: 

— Successful 1974 Budget Items : 

J. Management Associates Program for Women 
and Minorities for Presbytery, Synod, and 
G.A. levels; budget funds supplemented by 
the offices in which Associates are placed 

2. Male clergy consciousness-raising sem- 

3. A contribution the National Council of 
Churches ' Creative Ministry for Women 

4. Employed Position of Co-ordinator of 
Employment Opportunities 

5. Interim ministries program (rotating 
unemployed clergywomen around a presby- 
tery for leading in worship 

6. Regional skills training events for 
women employed by the denomination 

—We also recommended the upcoming Consulting 
Committee consultation with the U.P. Board 
of Pensions to review the psychiatric limi- 
tation and contracts for diagnosis (under 
the medical coverage plan). 

—We suggested the elimination of sexist 
language and sex preference options in the 
Church Information Form used in placement. 

—We raised the concern for the review of the 
evaluation instruments of ecumenical church 
career centers which were known for using 
tests based on male/female cultural stereo- 
types and producing results charted on sex- 
stereotyped job profiles. These centers 
were known to be recommended to women who 
could not find employment in the denomina- 
tion due mainly to discriminatory attitudes 
and employment practices. We went on record 
publicly as a group which requested women 
not to collude with their own referrals in 
such situations. 

-- Proposed 1975 New Budget Items 

1. Financial aid grants for supporting femin- 
ist publishable scholarship in various 
fields of theological training — i.e . , 
history of employed women in the UPCUSA, 
hermeneutics , Biblical theology, practi- 
cal theology (counseling, etc J 

2. Teaching Associates program for women in 
theological seminaries 

—we are currently proposing a collective self- 
help series of events for women working in na- 
tional offices. 

May 30, 1974 

Material prepared by Joyce L. Manson 

CEW Newsletter Editor: 
Carol M. Ames 
Box 427 
Forest Grove, PA 18922 

Appendix D 

CEW REPORT, 4/6-7/73 Meeting of the Committee on the Office of Equal 
Employment Opportunity 

The following are recommendations of CEW which committee members of the Office 
of Equal Employment Opportunity agreed to pass on to their respective boards 
and agencies for approval. 

In Policy Statements and the Support and Vocation Agencies 7 Affirmative Action 

The addition of "women," "race," "creed," "minorities, " "sex," "age," and 
"marital status" where previously omitted. "Marital status" is to include 

"family responsibilities." 

The substitution of "women" for "female" where applicable. 

The Office of Equal Employment Opportunities and all agencies are to have 
update lists of minority and women's caucuses for recruitment sources. 

The substitution of the following EEO general objective: 

"It is the policy of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of 
America to provide equal opportunity in employment and upward mobility for all 
qualified persons, to prohibit discrimination in employment because of race, 
creed, color, national origin, sex, age, or marital status, and to promote the 
full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive and 
continuing program of affirmative action." 

The addition of the following to be added to the specific EEO objectives: 

"Affirmative action is the execution of a set of specific and result-oriented 
procedures designed to eliminate frequent unconscious discriminatory practices 
in the employment of women and minority groups." 

The recommendation that bona fide occupational qualification be limited to 
"creed" only. 

To be added to methods of external dissemination of the EEO policy regarding 
the use of pictures in employment brochures that such pictures include women 
and minorities in non-stereotype roles(i.e. women stereotyped as secretaries). 

That statistics on employed women be included in samplings for goals and 
timetables. Goals and timetables for all agencies are to be set after 
availability studies have been done by the Office of Equal Employment 

The addition of sources for women candidates. 

To the AAF' of the Support Agency: the suggestion that the skills inventory 
done by the Vocation Agency for women include non-working experience. 

To be added under "Purpose," the establishment of grievance procedures. 

Separate goals for women and minorities. Goals more clearly delineated. 

Under "Definition," to "plan of action" add, "to insure the employment of 
women and minorities at all levels." 

In the guidelines, under "Outreach Recruitment," we asked that the words "good 
faith" be more clearly defined in order to clarify the requirements of 
outreach recruitment. The sentence reads: "Judicatories do not show forth 
good faith effort merely be advertising staff jobs in various publications." 

Under "staff Development and Training," in the following paragraph: "The 
Vocation Agency will initiate a program whereby employees will assist in the 
planning of their own career development. The program will include, but not 
be limited to, 1) an assessment of career goals and definition of needed 
training experiences to achieve mobility and promotion potential, (this will 
be undertaken with minority and female employees for future transfer or 
promotion. This will be achieved within the first year of employment." CEW 
requested clarification as to whether this process was to be initiated in all 
agencies or only the Vocation Agency, and further requested that, if only the 
Vocation Agency, it be adopted for inclusion by all agencies in their AAP. 

In response to CEW" s recommendation that women and minorities be considered 
together in policy but separate in implementation processes, the committee 
requested member-at-large Rev. G. Aubrev Young to work with Linda Brebner and 
Annette Wall to establish such a process for recommendation to the agencies. 
This group's considerations will also include the adaptation of the Womenpower 
Consultants" AAP for Women for church uses, the possible establishment of a 
position with the program for women as the core of the job description, and 
methods of combating the traditional and discriminatory general practice of 
limiting promotions of women to those with secretarial/clerical experience. 

To the expressed CEW concern that some procedure for the availability of the 
AAP compliance procedures be established for the individual employee, it was 
decided to consider this during the May meeting of this committee in Omaha, 
Nebraska. A process for monitoring and evaluating, as well as the grievance 
will also be explored at that time. 

Appendix E 

Summary of response from 2,468 secretaries 

Under 20 

• C,"j 


10. o$ 

31- 40 



33. of, 





over 65 


No response 


Education: • 

High School 






Business School 




No Response 


Fringe Benefits: 

Social Security - 

Yes 52$ 

it n 

No 35$ 

No Response 


Yes 3$ 


No 85$ 

No Response 



Yes 11$ 


No 76$ 

No Response 


Paid Vacation: 



Less than one week .4$ 

One veek 


Two 'weeks 


Three weeks 


Four weeks 


Over four weeks 


No response 


Length of Employment: 

Less than 1 year 


1-5 years 


6-10 years 


11-15 years 


16-20 years 


21-25 years 


25-33 years 


Over 30 years 


1.0 response 


irial only 65$ 
Secretarial + Bookkeeping 21$ 

Secretarial chores 
Secretarial calling 


Secretarial (calendar and 

Secretarial (other) 
No response 



Adult Study: Work related 


Church related 








No response 


Continuing Education: 

Have opportunities 


No opportunities 


No response 


Time off 


No time off* 


No response 


Financial assist- 



No assistance 


No response 


Involvement in church life: 




No response 


Involvement .of Members: 

Church officer 




Clerk of Session 


Study Groups 


Church Committees 


Youth Adviser ) 

. S. S. Teacher ) 


Couples' Club 








Full time (annual salary) 

880 secretaries - 35^ 

Part-time - 622 secretaries 


Less than $1,000 


$1,000 - $1,999 



2,000 - 2,000 



3,000 - 3,999 



4,000 - 4,999 


i« fi 

5,00-0 - 5,999 

12. Of, 


6,000 - 6,999 



7,000 - 7,999 



8,000 - 6,999 (or more) .J$ 

Full time (hoixly rate) - 

49 secretaries - 2$ 

Part-tine — 537 secretaries - 

$1.00 - 1.U9 



1.50 - 1.99 

.2 <f> 


2.00 - 2.49 

•7 $ 

10.0f 3 

2.50 - 2.99 



3.00 - 3.49 



3.50 - 3.00 



More than $4.00 


Full time (Volunteer) 

•95* • 

Part-time (Volunteer) 5$ 

No Response (itdl time) 


No Response (part time) 5£ 

Appendix F 




"God is calling His church. 

"This .General Assembly hears that call. 

"It is a call to be and a call to do. 

"In the plainest words possible, we 
believe the call of 'being' is heard through the 
Assembly Committees in a call to repentance and 
renewal. To turn from our preoccupation with 
ourselves and our systems, from our wealth, our 
comforts, our fears, and our suspicions. To re- 
pent of all we have been that we should not be, 
and to recommit ourselves to Jesus Christ and to 
be God's people." 

Clinton Marsh 

A group of staff people trying to be faithful to that call have 
been meeting and have developed a creative alternative for increased staff 
interaction with our constituency, which also has favorable budget impli- 
cations in our present crisis. After checking the plan further with ■ 
several dozen staff persons from all agencies and receiving positive 
responses , it was decided to submit the plan to the Administrative Cabinet 
of the Program Agency for possible use in rebuilding the 1975 budget 
options that will go to the Program Agency Board in September. We believe 
the church must struggle to express its faithfulness and to offer the 
%forld a new option which is the good news. 



A. Necessity of cutting budgets at the national level by 20-30%. 

B. Necessity of retaining proper balance between personnel and 
program in the total picture. 

C. Desire to act creatively with a forward look instead of 
simply acting defensively and retreating to the idea of 
"safe" ground. 

D. Desire to maximize use of all available resources including 
personnel in place now, with some skills and background, 
without wasting non-essential or low-priority resources that 
happen to be on hand today. 


Beginning in January 1975, the exempt staff and program specialists 
in all three national agencies would be employed on a nine-month basis 
(Plus one month paid vacation) with the understanding that staff are 
free to seek additional employment for the other two (or three) months 
of the year - as is the present pattern in academic institutions. 

The proposal addresses conditions A and B by reducing salaries 
20 - 25% and placing staff on three-quarters time. Vacation time would 
be negotiated as implementation details are focused. 

The proposal addresses condition D by retaining most of the present 
exenqpt staff (see "Implementation Details") #< but requires re-evaluation 
of most job functions currently carried to allow some reduction of staff and 
functions and to correct imbalances in the present structures. 

The proposal addresses condition C by providing the forward-looking 
benefits and affirming the potential of a majority of staff persons and 
functions. Further, it addresses condition C by providing the 
following forward-looking benefits: 


A. A model to correct present work-load imbalances for the world 

as well as for the established church structures. Idris Hamid, 
a Trinidadian minister of the Presbyterian Church, speaks to 
this point: 

TDur growing unemployment is considered by experts as the number one 
problem of the 1970' s. Why do we have to maintain the present socio- 
economic system in which some are employed and others not? Is it not 
possible to orient our employment pattern so that work is treated as 
.a commodity to be shared by all? If there is limited work, then it must 
be shared. This would mean that instead of having three (persons) 
work full time and one totally unemployed, that the work would be so 
disbributed that all four (persons) would work nine months of the year, 
the salaries adjusted so that they would be the same during the 
off period as during the working period. For some this would mean a 
smaller salary, but for all it would mean the possibility of an off 
period which would be used for leisure, rest, hobbies, study, creative 
and cultural activities (and other kinds of interesting work) etc. 
"Time" would be considered a form of payment. 

What a different society this would be! As it is now, some work 
to death — a laborious life — and others vegetate to death — a wasted 
life... Work would become a shared privilege, and all would have more time 
to develop latent or neglected faculties." 

B. Potential to increase the credibility and capabilities of national 
agencies' staff persons by providing time and opportunity for 
work "in the field" and "at the grass roots" for a minimum of 

two months each year - on a staggered basis. This would enable 
us to be visible to constituency and expose us anew to needs 
and ideas at congregation and middle- judicatory levels, working 
in secular jobs, continuing education, "tent-xnaking" ministries, 
or extended periods of rest and relaxation. 


C. Potential to rethink and evaluate patterns by which national 
agencies are involved in mission and providing additional oppor- 
tunities for strengthened relationships with judicatories and 
local churches. In addition, a two-month salary or consulting 
arrangement may be easier for judicatories and churches to budget 
than longer-term options. Judicatories might move to a similar time 

plan and consulting base for -their own staffs. Possibly, 
national agency, staff could be employed by the Support Agency ' 
as its new fund-raising consultants in the judicatories. 

D. Potential for developing "tent- making ministries as seminaries 
are now recommending. 


A. GAMC would be asked to approve a change in personnel policies 
to redefine "full-time" on the nine-month basis with the same 
one month paid vacation as currently exists. If all three 
national agencies approve the plan, there would be no reason 
for GAMC to refuse it. 

B. Vocation Agency offices, assisted by the personnel offices of 
other agencies, would need to be redefined to handle the additional 
pool of available persons for a staggered work schedule. This 

new opportunity to define inter- relationships with middle- 

judicatories ruVht be valcomd if properly intcr^ratsd. 


C. Existing job functions should be assessed to 1) eliminate 
unnecessary functions, and 2) to encourage staff flexibility 
and support. Such an assessment would inevitably mean that 
some staff positions would be eliminated. Staff job evaluations 
should also be used as tools for necessary termination of 
ineffective staff. 

D. Non-exempt staff positions would continue on a 12-month basis, 
with the option available for negotiation of the same plan if 


desired. It is assumed that the majority of non-exempt functions 
now planned to be eliminated or combined would follow the present 
plan and time schedule'and would not be affected by this plan. 

E. it is assumed that the Administrative Cabinet would provide 
budget detail and specific figures to justify and authenticate 
the proposal for 1) the Program Agency Board, and 2) the GAMC. 


F. There should be an opportunity, as soon as possible , to 
share the nature and details of this plan with the staff at 
large - through reports of persons attending the Administrative 
Cabinet meeting August 23, 24, and 25, and before the Program 
Agency Board meets September 6 and 1 , for the purposes of 
furthering support and seeking feedback. 


A. The plan could serve as a aodel for other institutions facing 
crises of reduced budgets. 


B. The Church would find itself in a prophetic role seeking to 
enable more humane and workable methods to help individuals and 
institutions discover and provide meaningful fulfillment and 
employment for persons in our society. 

C. Staff persons would continue to develop their own leadership 
abilities and skills, as well as provide opportunities for 
leadership development in the church-at-large. 

D. The Church would provide a witness of stewardship of time and 
energies, strengthening its role as a "servant people." 

E. The plan would serve to affirm a willingness of staff to share 
equally the burden of the crisis situation and affirm the 
unique and individual contributions of many staff people. 


A. If the financial situation of the church improves and the resources 
available for national expenditures increase, many staff persons 
might want to consider a 12-month schedule. Others, however, 
might elect to stay on a nine-month plan because of the creative 
possibilities which have been opened to them. 

B. The Church would live out its commitment to be a confessing 
Church. From the Confession of 19 67; "In each time and place 
there are particular problems and crises through which God calls 
the church to act. The church, guided by the Spirit, humbled 
by its own complicity, and instructed by all attainable know- 
ledge, seeks to discern the will of God and learn how to obey 

in these concrete situations. " 



1. Participating stafi would work nine months and have one month paid vacation. They 
would receive salary for ten months' work (tho payments might be spread over twelve). 
Because of present budget reductions, the number of functions/ jobs is going to be 
reduced - say, from 120 to 100. One way to reduce staff accordingly is to terminate 
20 persons. This plan proposes another way - let the 120 staff persons go on 5/6 

of full time and thereby spread 120 persons over 100 jobs. T\e jobs are still full 
time, a year's worth of work; th y carry full salaries appropriate to that work; 
the difference is that both the work and the pay are given to part-time workers. 

2. Work schedules would be arranged individually so that the jobs would be covered 
at all time. A worker's time out of the office would not necessarily be in one 
three-month period, but could be a month at a time if that worked out better. 
Scheduling would be complex, but this plan contends that it would be worth the 
effort; it also contends that the staff members have the flexibility to cover 
several related functions as needed thruout the year. 

3« The plan is not a way to preserve the whole present staff, which would not be 

desireable or possible. It is a way to keep staff cuts to a minimum, recognizing 
that a great deal of the "program" of this Agency is in fact its skilled personnel. 

U. This plan is a way to preserve the balance and diversity of the present staff 
with its attention to equal employment opportunity for both sexes, all ages and 
races. Cutting out whole individuals risks losing this balance; keeping more 
individuals on a 5/6 time basis allows preservation of much more diversity. 

5« This plan is a way for the Agency's staff to share the unemployment - a situation 
some believe will be with us for quite some time ahead - by each person losing 
1/6 of a job rather than some people losing whole jobs. The plan allows the 
staff to express their solidarity with colleagues in the understanding that 
each one brings humanity and diversity that enrich us all. 

6. The plan encourages participating staff to find outside work for the two or 
three months they are not working for the Agency. For some, this could result 
in a higher total income than they now receive. For others, it could mean a 
chance to try out new types of work, thereby increasing their flexibility and 
value to the Agency. If the plan were adopted GA-wide, possibly the Vocation 
Agency and other personnel offices could direct some attention toward locating 
useful placements that would contribute to the skills of the staff and the 
welfare of the whole Church. This factor is an added attraction, not essential 
to adoption of the plan, however. 

?• F^r maximum budget effect, the plan would have to apply to all exempt staff of 
the Agency (with the possible exception of the top administration). However, 
it could still have some effect if individual units were given the option to 
make their personnel-cost reductions in this way instead of terminating valued 
individuals completely. Unless the plan were adopted fairly widely, it could 
be psychologically difficult for those who did participate; hence the stipulation 
that it be made mandatory in the present version of the plan, with provision to 
negotiate particularly difficult situations one by one. A total plan with negotiated 
exceptions has a different psychology than a volunteer plan with a few participants. 
Any person about to be terminated has to renegotiate his/her financial commitments; 
having an option to go on a ten-month's plan also requires adjustments, but much 
less severe. For some, even this would prove impossible and they wouid prefer to 
resign and seek twelve-month work, but this plan at least gives them that option. 
In the present world economic situation, renegotiations of commitments may soon be 
required of everyone; this plan could let the Church encourage a facing of this 
reality and help those involved to deal with it in community. 



Appendix G 
The CEW Response to the G.A. Agency Staff Terminations in October, 1974, 

The budget cut o-f *6 million at the national level of the UPC is news 
you have been reading about in many places since the General Assembly met in 
June. The crippling tension, grief, etc. which has pervaded the Agencies' 
offices in the intervening period has not been widely publicized and must be 
"read between the lines" of official reports. Various units, cabinets, 
councils, boards, went through deliberations all summer to decide which 
"functions" the Agencies were performing could be cut. The persons who proved 
to be related to these "functions" were told of their terminations in 
September. As far as I (the editor) can determine, seven CEW members were 
terminated, including three members of the Steering Committee and one male 
associate member. A number of questions have been raised about the entire 
process of budget cuts (both program and staff). CEW members and CEW as an 
organization have joined in this questioning in several ways. 

As an organization. 
General Assembly Mission 
Vocation) urging them 
employment of women by 
adopted by the G**C. F 
this concern, and after 
dismay at the number an 
Program Agency Cin this 
have ail been left with 
another unit was terminat 
unit— although the over a 1 
exempt level dropped by 
The CEW S.C. heard a rep 
terminated women; sever a 
Committee on Women. 

CEW wrote in early August to the Directors of the 
Council and the three Agencies (Program, Support and 
to take seriously the Church's commitment to the 

following equal employment opportunity guidelines 

ollow-up letters have also been sent, re-emphasizing 

the terminations were announced, expressing CEW r s 

d positions of women terminated, especially in the 

Agency, three units and a sub-unit of a larger unit 

no women exempt (executive) staff; a position in 
ed, but the one woman there wa? reassigned within the 
1 percentage o-f women employed by the Agencies at the 
only two percentage points (an unofficial report], 
ort on the terminations at its meeting by one of the 
1 concerns were channeled onward to the Consultinq 

CEW has been one of the constituency groups represented by the 
"Coalition" which itself joined with the Council on Women and the Church and 
the Council on Church and Race, and representatives of terminated staff whirh 
brought a joint statement to the Coordinating Cabinet (the combined General 
Directors) in September. This statement and the presentation which 
accompanied it raised questions about the way EEO policy seemed to have been 
set aside in the termination process and the limited role of the Office of 
EEO. This group also raised the crucial questions about the lack of clearly 
defined, adopted and publicized priorities for aission of the church at the 
national level, and the resulting difficulties of cutting certain "functions" 
without such clear priorities. Included were a series of requested actions. 
The reply by the Coordinating Cabinet was disappointing to the combined 
petitioners, who felt that the Cabinet denied any miscarriage of procedures, 
quoted unanalyzed EEO figures, and did not deal with the question of mission 
priorities. The Coalition and Councils continue their discussions concerning 
other avenues of action. 

During the last nine months or so, sever*! CEW members have joined with 
some other women staff of the UPC in New York to meet informally, initially 
discussing areas of staff development not currently provided in the Agencies" 
structure, in which they might be of mutual help. When the budget crisis 
"broke", this group worked together to consider issues and alternatives: they 
wrote a statement on EEO in the current situation which was presented to the 
GAMC; they developed an alternative plan to reduce budget by staff and create 
a new work/life style, proposing that agency staff work on a nine-montn 
schedule, having then three months for study, leisure, or consulting jobs with 
judicatories or congregations, and together with other supporters of this plan 
distributed it widely in the Program Agency; they helped raise questions about 
the mission priorities and style of the Agencies. This group also became 
increasingly important for support as tension grew and as finally over half 
the women involved in the group were terminated. 

Appendix H 


/ July 13, 1973 
Denver, Colorado 

Some clarity concerning the status of Church Employed Women is needed. 

1. Church Employed Women i6 an organization of women vhose con- 
stituency is and whose purposes are: 

ordained ministers 

educators (DCE's, seminary and college personnel) 


lay enployees (paraprofessionals) 


agency and judicatory staff 


retired employees 

mission personnel 

others employed by the church. 

1. Developing among employed women a community for psycho- 
logical and economic support. 

2. Opening of doors for the contributions and influence of 
church employed women so that the church no longer need 
be deprived of the gifts of these women. 

3« Acting as advocates for all women. 

k. Humanizing our various work systems. 

5. Taking our place beside and working with employed women of 
other institutions. 

At the l&hth General Assembly in 1972, the following action was taken 
in relation to Church Employed Women: 

Whereas, the General Assembly has defined the place of women in the 
life of the church as one of its more urgent concerns: and 

• Whereas, opportunities for women to contribute and participate at 
all levels of ministries within the church have been severely limited: 

Whereas, the church has been deprived of the leadership and resources 
of women committed to the call of Christ to serve the church as their 
vocation; and 

Whereas, a national support group known as Church Employed Women has 
been voluntarily formed to deal with the unique situation of women 
employed in the church today, including church musicians, seminary 
students, church secretaries, other office personnel, Christian edu- 
cators, commissioned church workers, clergywomen, and others: and 


Whereas, the Church Employed Women need to find ways to challenge 
policies and practices of personnel agencies, to bring about equal 
opportunities and fair employment in parishes and Judicatories across 
the church; and 

Whereas, new models of ministry must be explored and developed: and 

Whereas, there is a need for continuing training, internship, career 
. counseling, and regional support conferences; and 

Whereas, there is a need for communication - liaison and leadership 
development in parishes and judicatories across the church: 

Therefore, the standing committee recommends : 

1. That the l8Uth General Assembly (1972) recognize Church Employed 
Women and affirm a need for this support community. 

2. That with the advent of the new structure a Consulting Committee 

on Church Employed Women be formed administratively related, funded 
by, and staffed by the Vocation Agency of the General Assembly, 
with a liaison relationship to the Women's Office of the Program 
Agency. (This was designated Reference 10 . ) 

Two-thirds of the members will be elected by Church Employed Women 
and one-third appointed by the Vocation Agency. 

3- That General Assembly allocate funds to provide for services such 
as volunteers, additional staff services, regional conferences, 
resources, and consultants during the interim period. (This was 
designated Reference 11 . ) 

It needs to be noted that the organization of Church Employed Women was 
recognized by the General Assembly and is distinct and different from the 
Consulting Committee on Church Employed Women which will be administratively 
related to the Vocation Agency. 

Secondly, it needs to be noted that it was voted that the General Assembly 
allocate funds to provide for additional staff services during the interim 

Subsequent to this action, $5,000 was voted for Church Employed Women. 

In 1973 > Church Employed Women, having been recognized by the church, re- 
ported through the Standing Committee on Women. We have since been informed 
that in subsequent years we are to report through the Committee on Minutes and 
Reports. In the confusion of restructuring General Assembly Committees, this 
word did not come to us in time to make our report through this 
committee in 1973* However, the Standing Committee carried the report of 
Church Employed Women to General Assembly; its report was received., and the 
following recommendations were voted: 

1. That the Vocation Agency call upon the organization of Church Em- 
ployed Women (CEW) to develop some recommended procedures for profes- 
sionalism in hiring and employment practices for employment of non- 
ordained full or part-time church personnel in local churches, and 
request that these recommended procedures be reported by Church 
Employed Women to the l86th General Assembly (191k): 


2. That the l85th General Assembly (1973) express its concern to the 
local churches regarding the widespread lack of fringe benefits 
in employment available to non-ordained church personnel. Of par- 
ticular concern are such important items as: 

a. Pension protection; 

b. Hospitalization and medical insurance coverage; 

c. Continuing education benefits; 

d. Adequate vacation time; 

e. Federal Unemployment Insurance coverage. 

3« Whereas, the restructuring process has provided the pragmatic medium 
for the evaluation of women' 6 employment in the UPCUSA in the follow- 
ing statistics gathered from the new structure: 

Of the top 87 staff positions, 6 have been filled by women, one of 
whom was employed in the Women's Program. There are no clergywomen 
in these top staff positions. 

number of women total number of 
employed in the top positions 

The Support Agency l^i 

The Program Agency 2 18 

The Vocation Agency 2 8 

A. D. 1 5 

The U. P. Foundation 
Office of the General Assembly and 

the General Assembly Mission 

Council 1 1? 
The Council on Administrative 

Services 3 
The Council of Theological 

Seminaries O 1 

Synod Executives 17 

6 87 

In addition, there is 1 woman out of UO Presbytery Executives, and 
women who are senior pastors in large city churches or suburban par- 

Whereas, Church Employed Women (CEW) surveys reveal further that women 
employees of the majority of churches have no fringe benefits such as 
pensions, no employment protection, and some receive less- than-mini mum 
wages, an') 

Whereas, in the coming years, the already critical une iplovment leve] 
of women will rise with the increased number of women graduating Pror. 
seminaries, and 

Whereas, the church has publicly avowee! its commt L"ient to the concerns 
of women through General Assembly actions and translation o r i.his rou- 
nd tment from rhetoric to realization requires extensive analysis of 
statistics on women employed by the church which, at this dale, Church 
Employed Women (CEW) has just begun to establish (Blue Book, pp. 182- 
lw; in mimeographed copy - pp. 13-15 )» and 

Whereas, the already completed hiring process precludes reined lal action, 
Therefore, the Assembly Committee on Women recommends that : 

a. The church acknowledge the need to redress the employment situation 
of women, and 

b. The church engage in a three-year activity of consultation and action 
to overcome the under-utilization of women at decision-making levels 
and to improve the situation of all women employed across the church. 
Such activity could include: 

1) Establishing procedures and changes to move women from "qualifiable" 
to "qualified" (management skills development). 

a) Job training to improve the skills of women. 

b) Changing the attitudes in the church toward its wo:.ien employees 
attitudes of women toward employment, employers, and various 
levels of employees . 

c) Creating job environments and management styles that relate to 
the needs and life-styles of women. 

d ) Redefining the church employer's criteria of "competency." 

2) Development of models and opportunities for new ministries on the 
part of women. 

3) Enhancement of recruitment and employment of minority wo-ren. 

c. The Assembly Committee on Women requests the Vocation Agency, the 
Council on Administrative Services, the Office of Flqual Employment 
Opportunity, and the Council on Women and the Church, in consulta- 
tion with Church Employed Women, to give priority attention to 
improving the situation in the employment of women by the church. 

d. The Assembly Committee on Women of the 185th General Assembly (1°73) 
commends an>l supports the Vocation Agency in its efforts to facili- 
tate immediate placement of present employees at all ,'udi calory 
levels who have been displaced in the restructuring process. The com- 
mittee also recommends that the 185th General Assembly (1073) call to 
the attention of the Vocation Agency the pressing need to open up em- 
ployment opportunities at the level of national and regional ,'udi ca- 
tory staff to women and members of minority groups. 

Church Employed Women has received the report from the Vocation Agency, 
Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Council on Administrative Services as 
to their intent to carry out with Church Employed Women the actions of the 
last Ceneral Assembly. We look forward to working with them in the years ahead. 
but need some clarity and specificity as to how this can take place. It is clear 
to us that in order for Church Employed Women to best serve the church in its 
attempt to bring justice for women employed within its system, some funding is 

We are aware of Die General Assembly Mission Council's original aoUon 
not to provide funds for organizations related to the church in the Form of 
Government, Section 28, until guidelines have been established. However, we 
asked the General Assembly Mission Council to reconsider this decision and at 
a breakfast meeting at General Assembly presented the purposes, objectives and 
potential of Church Employed Women to the Council. Action was taken to deal 
with this issue at the July meeting. 

We feel that Church Employed Women because of the mandate they have re- 
ceived from General Assembly to work with the Vocation Agency, the Council on 
Administrative Services and the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, has 
an obligation to the church which they inust fulfill. To do this, some admin- 
istrative costs will be incurred in order for Church Employed Women to function 
in the next two years for the following reasons. 

1. Staff services originally provided through the Office of Women's 
Concerns of the Board of Christian Education will no longer be 
available to Church Employed Women. 

2. Office services which were formerely provided by that same office 
will no longer be available. 

3. Volunteer services by their very nature are limited in time and 
finances. T5 erefore, some staff services are needed by Church 
Employed Women in order to 

a. Continue communication with the constituency: 

b. Work with the Vocation Agency, Office of Equal Employment 
Opportunity and the Council on Administrative Servides in 
further specifying their efforts on behalf of women: 

c. Provide services to the National Steering Committee, facili- 
tating the planning for its meetings and the follow-up thereof: 

d. Identify the specific resources and skills available to the 
church within Church Employed Women; 

e. Interpret the findings of research already begun by Church 
Employed Women re women and their employment in the church. 

We recognize the non -programmatic definition of the General Assembly Mission 
Council. We believe this request to be non -programmatic in that it facilitates 
administratively the work that will be done programmatically by the boards and 
agencies of the church. 

Specifically, Church Employed Women request: 

Staff Services $10,000.00 

Office Services and Supplies 3.000.00 

Travel 2,000.00 


for each of two years. 


An alternative buctget between now and November, In order to carry Church 
Employed Women through the transition Interim, would be 

Consulting Services $3,500.00 

Office Services and Supplies 500.00 
Travel 1,000.00 


If the General Assembly Mission Council at this meeting decides to put 
into operation the action of the General Assembly Mission Council, we would 
recommend the former budget. If the church wants to put off its decision 
until November, we would recommend the alternate budget. Over the years the 
United Presbyterian Church has indicated its commitment to self -development 
an<i to women. At its last General Assembly, it recognized its need in keeping 
with both of these decisions to consult with Church Employed Women, an organi- 
sation which is attempting to serve both women and the church for the mutual 
growth of both into the body of Christ. The church must somehow deal with the 
question of how to facilitate Church Employed Women in its mission tc and with 
the church with the understanding that this is an initial step to empower 
Church iCmployed Women and that in the next two years steps will be taken for 
this organization to be otherwise supported through the structures of the 
church and the commitment of women. 

Note : Church Employed Women looks forward to a liaison relationship with the 
Council on Women and the Church and recognizes the importance of the Council 
as the focal point for issues and policies relating to women. It is important, 
however, to distinguish the functions of the Council and of Church Employed 
Women, recognizing the unique contributions • Church Employed Women needs to 
make to the church on the very specific issues related to women's employment. 


jWTttS R. Gailey, General Secretary 

H. Clayton Neel. Assistant General Secretary 

Ojcar J. Hussel. Assistant General Secretary 


Philadelphia, Pa. 19107 
Telephone 215/735-6722 

June 25, 1973 
(Dictated June 22) 

To: Donald Smith, James L. Hogue, Robert A. Hoppe 

Dear Don, Jim and Bob: 

At the General Assembly in May, decisions relating to CEW (Church Em- 
ployed Women) were deferred to the July meeting. We understand CEW is on 
the docket for the meeting of the G.A.M.C. on the lUth and 15th in Denver 
and that at that time you will be asked to report on hov you plan to use 
CEW's consulting services in the year ahead. (We call your attention to 
the General Assembly recommendation — see pages 7 and 8 of the enclosed 
Report of the Assembly Committee on Women.) 

In determining our concern for making CEW effective in the church, ve 
need to know vhat your plans are. Could you please outline them for us in 
time for us to do some work before the lUth. *See belov for addresses. 

We appreciate your support and look forward to working together for 
getting a little closer to the Kingdom in the years ahead. 

Sincerely , 

Marjorie Heller Adler 

Patricia Budd Kepler 



cc: Linda Brebner, Annette Wall 

•Ms. Marjorie Heller Adler 
111 So. Hewark Street 
Ventnor, EJ 08106 

Rev. Patricia Budd Kepler 
Room 730, Witherspoon Building 
Philadelphia, PA 19107 


The Vocation Agency is providing up to $1,500. for the 
Church Employed Women to meet in the fall of 1973 in order to secure 
from Church Employed Women as many specific proposals as possible 
regarding programmatic approaches to the Vocation Agency's "Priority 
to Ministry" Point 3, on affirmative action programs to improve 
opportunities for women in Church employment. Specifically/ these 
programs are to be formulated and channeled through the Vocation 
Agency's Advisory Committee on Women Employed by the Church, and are 
to include 

— creating a climate of acceptance for women in pulpit 

and other ministries, 

— the preparation of women for administrative posts in 

the Church, and 

— programs to enhance the actual placement of women. 

Details of these needs will be formulated by the Vocation 
Agency Staff, in consultation with the Vocation Agency's Advisory 
Committee on Women, and Church Employed Women. 




R*^«lvMJ In the Orfic- 'f en* 



Trtcphorw : 212 870-2102 

JUL 6 1973 

July 6, 1973 


To: Leon E. Fanniel 

Prom: Robert A. Hoppe and Donald P. Smith 


In response to memorandum to Don Smith, Jim Hogue, and Bob Hoppe from 
Mnrjorie Adler and Patricia Kepler, the adressees met on July 3, 1973 
to draft a response that would give CEW some basis for proposing services 
to their respective units. 

Our first concern was to state certain principles regarding our responsi- 
bilities, our understanding of program funding, and any possible relation- 
ship to CEW that involved financial support. 

Our second concern was to state specific areas where it would be helpful 
to have assistance from women employed within the Church. 

The statement of these two concerns was to provide our response to Ms. Adler 
and Rev. Kepler. 

Our third concern was to indicate to General Assembly Mission Council the 
nature of our response to CEW, to suggest a way to fund any services 
delivered by CEW, and to provide time for us to review and evaluate 
proposals from CEW. 

Wo are sending to CEW pages 1 and 2 of the enclosed paper with attachments 
that state nature of services Vocation, EEO, and CAS desire. Page 3 in 
not being sent since we feel it is for the guidance of GAMC. 

If this process is followed, then we would anticipate making a recommendation 
to GAMC at its November meeting. 

RAHrmei ^^W^tiXy^ 



The Committee on Women of the 185th General Assembly (1973) ma d © several 
references to the need for the United Presbyterian Church to more carefully study 
the plight of women employed within the Church, and to take some specific actions 
to remedy situations wherein women employees have been underutilized, discriminated 
against, denied full employment opportunity, etc. The General Assembly adopted 
the Committee's report, including a request that "...the Vocation Agency, the 
Council on Administrative Services, the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, 
and the Council on Women and the Church, in consultation with Church Employed 
Women, to give priority attention to improving the situation in the employment 
of women by the church..." 

The General Assembly Mission Council during the 185th General Assembly 
considered the possibility of funding Church Employed Women. The action of the 
General Assembly Mission Council was not to fund CEW, or other special organizat- 
ions recognized under Chapter XXVIII of the Form of Government until policy 
guidelines have been established and approved in accordance with the P/B/E process. 
However, it was agreed that GAMC and CEW would consider specific proposals in 
greater depth during the July GAMC meeting. 

In response to a letter of inquiry from representative of CEW, the 
Directors of the Vocation Agency, the Council on Administrative Services, and 
the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity met to discuss how the consultative 
services of CEW might be used by their respective units. What follows is both a 
response to CEW and suggested basis for any action by GAMC. 


1. Three units related to the General Assembly ...The Office of Equal 
Employment Opportunity, The Vocation Agency, and the Council on Administrative 
Services.. * have been given specific responsibilities for enhancing employment 
opportunities for women within the United Presbyterian Church. All three are 
currently operative. 

The 185th General Assembly established the Council on Women and the 
Church to deal — among other things — with concerns that have been expressed by 
women employed within the Church. Until that Council is fully operational and 
can provide systematic imput on the concerns of women employed by the Church, 
General Assembly agencies might need such imput from other sources as well. 

2. Church Qnployed Women is an organization of women who are now employed 
within the Church as clergy, commissioned church workers, other professionally 
trained staff, administrators, clerical staff, etc. Other women who have profess- 
ional training and would like to work within the Church are also members of CEW. 
C1W does not, however, represent all women employed by the Church. 

3. CEW has not yet been "recognized" as a special related organization 
wrier Chapter XXVTH of the Form of Government in that they have not reported 
to General Assembly as prescribed by General Assembly. . 

4*&C - CEV page 2 

H-. Funding of programs (organizations) is done through the P/b/E process 
and through regularly established budgets of a General Assembly agency. 

5. Any financial contribution to Church Employed Woman by the Office of 
Equal Employment Opportunity, the Vocation Agency, or the Council on 
Administrative Services can only be made in terms of payment for specific 
consultative services or specific projects rendered to these bodies in 
line with their objectives in fulfilling their responsibilities. 

6. To enable the Church Efcployed Women to formulate specific proposals for 
consultative services or projects, the Vocation Agency is prepared to 
provide up to $1,500.00 to assist the CEW Steering Committee to meet 
early in the fall of 1973 with an agenda to be established through 
mutual consultation among representatives of Church Employed Women, 
Council on Administrative Services, Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, 
and the Vocation Agency. 

7» As basis for the formulation of this agenda, representatives of these 
General Assembly bodies are providing Church Employed Women with a list 
of potential areas of service which might be the subject of exploration 
and specific proposal by Church Employed Women. 





GAMC - CEW Page 3 

The proposal suggested on the preceeding pages answers one of three 
questions raised by the directors of Vocation Agency, Council on Administrative 
Services, and the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity: 

The first question raised was: 

1. What kind of assistance by women employed within the Church would be 
helpful to Vocation, EEO, and CAS in fulfilling their responsibili- 
ties regarding "under-utilization of women at decision-making levels 
and to improve the situation of all women employed across the church." 

The second question raised was: 

2. How can such assistance be paid for? 

This question was partially answered by Item 5 on Page 2. The model for 
this kind of relationship can be found in the two year-old relationship of 
Project Equality, Inc. - first with the Council on Church and Race, and now 
with General Assembly Mission Council. 

A specific proposal of a service agreement is presented wherein the areas 
of service are spelled out, along with the cost of delivering such services. 
The General Assembly unit who receives the services pays for such services . The 
service agreement also contains "a participation grant" which is designed to 
assist the national office of Project Equality meet its need to have overall 
administrative support to enable them to provide the specific services. Tn 1973 
the cost of this participation grant is being charged to the Office of IT.O through 

The $1,500.00 "grant" of the Vocation Agency can be seen as an example of 
participation grant, or as enabling funds to develop a proposal. 

The third question raised was: 

3. Is Church Employed Women the organization to deliver needed services? 

The third question cannot be answered until such time as CEW receives 
input arising from question one, and they can formulate a response in terms of 
types of consultative services and/or special projects they are prepared to 

After receiving specific proposals from CEW, Vocation, CAS, and EEO will 
evaluate and decide upon a recommendation to GAMC concerning a service agreement 
with CEW if this is considered to be an acceptable way to secure the needed 
services . 



July 6, 1973 


Tatophon* : 212 870-2102 

TO : Ms. Marjorie Heller Adler 
Rev. Patricia Budd Kepler 

FROM : Donald P. Smith, Vocation Agency 

James L. Hogue, Council on Administrative Services 
Robert A. Hoppe, Office of Equal Employment Opportunity 

SUBJECT : Possible Services from Church Employed Women 

In response to your memorandum of June 25, 1973 the three of 

us met on July 3rd. In seeking to make a response we considered 

three things : 

The action of 185th GA (1973) in adopting the report 
of The Assembly Committee on Women. 

The action (s) of the General Assembly Mission Council 
in May 1973. 

Areas where our respective agencies might use assistance 
from women employed by the Church. 

Our response to CEW (through you) is found in the enclosed 
paper ,which is also our way of responding to the Steering 
Committee of GAMC. 

We are prepared to meet with representatives of CEW to further 
define the areas listed. You will note that each agency has 
provided a separate listing. 

If you have specific questions about each agency's response 
please call the respective director. If there are questions 
about the paper as a whole, please contact Don Smith. 

I will out of town from July 7th on and cannot be reached until 
July 12th at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Denver. 


Robert A. Hoppe S * 


Cyi Leon B, Fannie I 


James R. Gailey, General Secretary 

H. Clayton Neel. Assistant General Secretary 

Oscar J. Hussel. Assistant General Secretary 


Philadelphia. Pa. 19107 
Telephone 215/735-6722 
Roo m T^O 

July 10, 1973 

Rev. Leon Fardel 
Cosmopolitan Hotel 
Denver, CO 80202 

Dear Leon; 

I would very much like to be with GAMC at their July meeting to speak 
in support of Church Employed Women, but the death of my father precludes 
my attendance. 

I think the Task Force and the Interim Task Force on Women have made 
clear that it is important for women employed by the church to speak on 
their own behalf and to offer the church their services in relationship to 
the policies regarding the employment ;of women. I am confident that the 
Council on Women will continue to welcome the voice of Church Employed Women, 
speaking on behalf of women who are employed by the Church. 

Because this Council "serves as a focal point for the identification of 
issues and church-wide policy relating to the status of women and their posi- 
tion within the church and in society," it is important for the Council to 
have a liaison with the Steering Committee of Church Employed Women which 
has been provided for in the representation of the Council. Also, because 
we are to "review and evaluate program and operations of General Assembly 
agencies and Judicatories in terms of their compliance with General Assembly 
approved policies concerning the status of women and their position within the 
church and report our findings and recommendations to the General Assembly, 
the General Assembly Mission Council, affected General Assembly agencies and 
affected Judicatories," we have a concern as to how the General Assembly Mission 
Council is going to enable Church Employed Women to carry out their mandate 
to serve the church. 

I personally concur with their request for administrative funding which 
will enhance their effectiveness in the service of the church. 

Again, let me say how sorry I am that I cannot be with you. You have my 
support in your difficult task. I look forward to working with you in the 
years ahead. I appreciate your efforts on behalf of women and know we will 
together be thinking of ways to strengthen the church and its mission. 



cc: Villard Heckel, Patricia Kepler 

Linda Brebner, Annette Wall 

Mar jorie Heller Adler 

Chairperson, Council on Women and the Church 




Uon E. Fenniel 475 RIVERSIDE DRIVE, ROOM 1020, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10027 

Executive Director Telephone . 212 870-2102 

August 2, 1973 

TO: G. Annette Wahl, Co-Chairwoman 
Church Employed Women 

FROM: ■ Leon E. Fanniel 

RE: Request for Funding from Church Employed Women 

This is to inform you officially of the actions which the General 
Assembly Mission Council took during its July lU-15, 1973 meeting 
in Denver regarding the request for funding from Church Employed 
Women : 

The General Assembly Mission Council - 

VOTED to approve the following recommendations from its 
Steering Committee: 

1) that Church Employed Women be requested to 
define precisely what they see to be their 
role in relation to the Council on Administra- 
tive Services, the Vocation Agency and the Office 
of Equal Employment Opportunity. 

2) that the General Assembly Mission Council take the 
position that the work of Church Employed Women is 
programmatic in nature and therefore should not be 
funded through the use of per capita. 

VOTED to reaffirm its action taken during the May 14-23, 1973 
meeting in Omaha as follows: 

"that the GAMC not fund those Special Organizations 
(such as: Church Employed Women), which are recog- 
nized under Chapter XXVIII of the Form of Government 
until policy guidelines have been established and 
approved in accordance with the P/B/E process." 

The above is submitted for your information and guidance 


cc: Patricia Kepler 
Donald P. Smith 
James Hogue 
Robert Hoppe 
James Martin 
Kenneth Miller 
Arturo Archuleta 



LMA E. F«nnl«l 476 RIVERSIDE DRIVE, ROOM 1020, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10027 

Eacuth* Director Tatephon* : 212 870-2102 

September 25, 1973 

Ms. Joyce L. Manson 

Program Agency, 

United Presbyterian Church U.S.A. 

Room 1133-H 

475 Riverside Drive, 

New York, N. Y. 10027 

Dear Ms. Manson: 

I wish to acknowledge your letter indicating a concern for 
the action of the General Assembly Mission Council, taken in 
Denver on July 14, 1973, on the request of Church Employed 
Women for funding. I appreciate your sharing your views with 
me and I will report them to the Council. 

The Council was requested to approve $7, 800 for Church 
Employed Women. The Council did not approve the request. 
It is difficult to state why any deliberative body takes any par- 
ticular action. Each member has his or her own reasons. It 
seemed clear in July that conversations between CEW and the 
Vocation Agency, the Council on Administrative Services and 
the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity had not yet developed 
the ways in which the services of CEW could best be utilized. The 
Vocation Agency had agreed to grant $1, 500 to enable the Steering 
Committee of CEW to participate further in the definition of the 
services CEW can render. When the nature of those services are 
identified I believe the services will be funded. The GAMC be- 
lieves that the work of CEW is progra.Tnma.tic and therefore should 
not be funded through the use of per capita. 

In any event, the matter is not closed and your letter was not 
written in vain. I will see that the matter comes before the GAMC 
in November. 

Sincerely yaurs, 

Willard Heckel, Chair mar 
General Assembly Mission Council 

Appendix I 
An Analysis of the Early Years of Church Employed Women 

As I look back on the lite o-f CEW, especially during its early years, I 
see real evidence o-f an intuitive liberation tendency. Although we were all 
"products" of our liberal environment, we seemed to be looking beyond liberal 
parameters. In our efforts to Dove beyond class lines by making all employed 
women of the UPCUSA eligible for membership in CEW, we reflected "communal" 
and "marginality" elements of liberation. In challenging structures of the 
church to change in dramatic ways, such as questioning the psychological 
evaluation policy of the Pensions Board, introducing legislation to create 
Personnel Committees for non-clergy employees, in our key involvement in the 
development of the EEO/AAP program of the denomination and in our creation of 
new pilot ministries for women, we were trying to bring about transformative 
change, sometimes verging on revolutionary change. In our desire to build 
coalitions with the other women's constituency groups, with the Presbyterian 
Gay Caucus, and with the Witherspoon Society (an organization of liberal 
Presbyterians that aimed to keep justice issues before the denomination), we 
manifested our communal and interdependent understanding as to how change 
could occur. In sponsoring the Therapeutic Seminar for Clergywomen, the 
workshops for secretaries, and in surveying each of our constituency groups, 
we acknowledged the existence of and showed real concern for the 
particularities of our members. Our instincts were often in the right place, 
although rarely did we fully recognize the nature of our demands or proposals. 
We were inexperienced enough to be naive about our dreams and thought we could 
expect to see those dreams fulfilled. 

I think that in many ways we were the most radical constituency group of 
women within the UPCUSA at that point in history (1972-1974), and as a result 
we were the most threatening group to those of the established power base. 
The fear of our opposition could be clearly felt. I believe that is one 
reason we were never allowed into the structure or given substantial funding 
from the denomination. I am not surprised that all of those of us on the 
Steering Committee who were hired onto the national staff also were terminated 
a year later. We were perceived as a power to contend with and as 
troublemakers whom it was better to be without. Most of us were white women 
who shared class and race privilege with white men, yet we dared to question 
the very bases of that privilege. We were thought to be dangerous and needed 
to be neutralized by one means or another. 

When I think about the three primarily white women's constituencies of 
the UPCUSA, I believe that we manifested the conservative (traditional)/ 
liberal/liberationist (radical) political continuum. 

("The pi* is good and we deserve our piece. 
It»s all going to be okay, ^ust give up 
a piece of the pie.") 


("The pie stinks 1 Smash it.") 

("The pie is falling!") 

There is a sense i 
strange kind of agreement 
United Presbyterian Women 
roles and power dynamics 
smashed. COWAC was the 
which compromised its rad 
and expectations. CEWd 
•embers were in enough p 
profoundly -from a proto-1 
or status ironically left 
agreement that the pie w 
was a disaster and -for th 
level of liberation an 
everything was just fine, 
of the pie. 

n which the conservatives and liberationists aeet in 

, both disagreeing with the liberals. In the UPCUSA, 

wanted to maintain its established relationships, 

and was fearful of things being totally rearranged or 

new upstart group with official status and funding 
icality so that it remained liberal in its demands 
) was still enough outside of the system and its 
ain so that it was able to challenge the system more 
iberationist perspective. (However, the lack of aoney 
CEW vulnerable to co-optation. > CEW and UPW aet in 
as going to be destroyed; however, for one group it 
e other it was a necessary step to aove on to a new 
d justice. In the seantiae, for the liberals, 

and everyone would be O.K. once they had their piece 

Elizabeth Verdesi described the history of each of the wo»en ? s 
constituency groups in the UPCUSA from 1970 to 1983. In each of those 
histories, she indicates the interrelationships with the other groups. She 
also draws out learnings -from the history of each to be used in the -future. 
She drew the following conclusions -froa CEVT s history: 

1. effective Advocacy in the church requires soae kind of recognized 
status and location within the systea, with adequate budget -and staff. 

2. Advocacy work is not always done «ost effectively by those who are 
suffering -from the problea, though *victias" should be involved in 
providing accurate, authentic information to those who advocate on their 

3. The church probably identifies as coepetitive any two <or sore) 
groups of woaen unless their coaposition, agenda and purpose are very 
obviously different. 

4. Bureaucratic systems do not readily tolerate "redundancies," i.e., 
whenever a pressure group advocates a particular course of action, the 
group must take heed lest it continue advocating tor something that has 
already been done--perhaps not in the -form or way that the group had 
wanted, but in a way that satisfies the system. (2) 

What interests me about Verdesi's conclusions is that they come from the 
person who staffed COWAC in the latter years. In other words, the staff 
person for one of the women's constituency groups described and evaluated the 
other three groups. (3) I believe that CEW ended up getting the short end of 
the stick in Verdesi's conclusions. One must read her conclusions mindful 
that COWAC, beginning in 1974(4) began to encroach on the issues which the 
Task Force on Women (predecessor body to COWAC) had actually requested CEW to 
oversee, namely, those issues that most clearly related to women employed of 
the church. 

In response to the first conclusion above, I would agree that it might 
be a lot easier to be an advocate if one has status and funds. However, there 
is always the danger that the status and funds may have to be bought at a 
price such that the impact of the group is totally compromised, resulting in 
no significant change in the structures of the church. As a matter of fact, 
the more money CEW received from the structures, the less able it was to 
declare clearly the changes that needed to occur and the more liberal became 
its identity. 

The CEW members who gathered near Philadelphia in December, 1989, agreed 
that the second conclusion listed above was totally inconsistent with Feminist 
Liberation; for instead of looking to those most marginalized to name the 
oppression and lead in the liberation process, Veraesi's conclusion would lead 
us to the liberal maternalism in which justice is done by those outside of the 
oppressed group. Somehow those outside know better ano are better equipped to 
bring about liberation. The fallacy of this notion has been demonstrated over 
and over. 

Verdesi's states that CEW "tried to become competitive with the one 
women's group in the church which had what it needed — legitimization, budget, 
staff and recognition. Had there been better communication between CEW and 
COWAC, perhaps some of COWAC s energy and resources could have focused on 
women's employment in the church, and CEW could have provided information and 
strategies which they were uniquely qualified to do.MS) This too is a crazy 
charge, for CEW was willing to do this communicating, but when we accepted 
COWAC s money, we sold our souls in a way that was not so different froffi what 
happened when we accepted money from the Vocation Agency or the Office of 
Equal Employment Opportunity. As a matter of fact, we were more vulnerable to 
being co-opted by COWAC because we trusted our sisters more than we trusted 
the church bureaucrats. 

In relation to Verdesi's final conclusion, I have already mentioned some 
factors that clouded CEW' s ability to see Ann Conrad's existence in the 
structures as necessarily positive following the 1974 layoffs. Although I 
would tend to agree that sometimes the system responds in a way that satisfies 
it that it has answered a demand from an advocacy group, I am not sure that 


the group has to be satisfied just because the system is. However, it would 
be important -for the group to couch their demands slightly differently so that 
the system cannot slip out of its responsibility by just pointing to what it 
has already done to respond. (6) 

Lastly, I want to mention briefly that I believe that there was a great 
deal of horizontal violence (7) experienced by women within the UPCUSA during 
the years 1972-1974. host of us were new feminists, and we did not yet have a 
real understanding of how the institutional violence done by systems and 
structures could be manifested among those who were victims of that violence. 
We, within the various constituencies of women in the UPCUSA, violated women 
in our own groups and women in other groups. Our fears and our anger got 
directed against those most like us rather than toward those persons and 
structures responsible for our pain and suffering. We also failed to 
understand the power dynamics that were present in our relationships with 
other women as individuals and groups. As a result, we were often unable to 
work together in coalitions that might have provided us with greater support 
and strength as we challenged the system. Our intuitive liberat ionist 
inclinations were compromised not only by what the institutions did to us but 
also by what we did to one another. 

However, I am really fascinated that what seemed like Liberal Feminism 
in the life of Church Employed Women really was quite liber at ionist, however 
unconscious or undeveloped. It was a beginning to which we can look back for 
courage and insight. This group of women was up against great odds, but they 
continued to attempt to make changes on their own behalf and on behalf of all 
women employed in the United Presbyterian Church. Their efforts stand as a 
testimony that the call to justice and liberation is ever with us, that the 
cost of responding to that call is ever great, that the pitfalls along the way 
are many, and that the path toward liberation is not always well lighted. 
Still and all, I am impressed that many of the women who served on the 
Steering Committee of CEW between 1972 and 1974 continue to find ways to make 
our way, sometimes stumbling, down that path. 


1. TWWCC probably was also on the liberationist side, but I am less aware o-f 
their mentality and focus during those early years. 

2. Elizabeth Verdesi and Lillian Taylor, Our Rightful Place: The Story o-f 
Presbyterian Women, 1970-1963 (New York and Atlanta: Presbyterian Church 
U.S.A.) 1985, p. 54. 

3. One CEW member at the December, 1989, gathering felt that Verdesi had a 
typology she imposed on this data, and the rest of us tended to agree. 

4. Up to that time, the relationship between CEW and COWAC had been a 
supportive and friendly one. For example, CEW participated in the first 
national conference on judicatory task forces on women held in March, 1973, at 
which we made an official presentation and led a workshop. Nine nembers of 
the CEW Steering Committee were present. (Newsletter in April, 1973) 

5. Elizabeth Verdesi and Lillian Taylor, Our Rightful Place , p. 53. 

6. As can be seen, I take great exception to Verdesi" s conclusions. I believe 
she should have acknowledged her own involvement in the later relationship 
between CEW and COWAC so that the reader could factor that reality into her 
evaluation of those conclusions. I think that what "bugged" Verdesi and other 
COWAC leaders the most about CEW was that it continued to try to be self- 
determining and liberationist whenever possible. 

7. Horizontal violence is the violence done by individuals to each other 
within an oppressed group. 


Appendix J 
The Design -for the Gathering of White, Middle-Strata Presbyterian Clergy-women 

Friday, April 21 

Gathering at Dinner 

15-20 Gathering Ritual 

15-20 Getting on Board with Process 

120 Question for the Evening: What di-f-ference does it make in your li-fe 
and ministry that you have a -feminist commitment? In what ways has 
liberation theology made a difference in your understanding in your 
feminist commitment? 

Ten minutes to reflect and jot down notes — then each woman shares for 
10-12 minutes. 

10-15 Brief closing discussion 

5 Brief closing 

Social time 
Saturday, April 22 


10-15 Gathering 

60 Questions for session: What have been the significant shifts (shifts of 
paradigm or world view) in your adult life, especially in the last 10-1 
years? What impact have these shifts had on your life and ministry? 

Choose one shift upon which to focus, and share within groups of four. 
(15 minutes for each woman) 

20 Break 

45-60 General discussion of this question: What are the factors in our 

lives — histories, contexts, people around us, etc. — that have prepared 
us or encouraged us to risk a shift in paradigm or world view? What 
factors have blocked such risk taking? What role has liberation 
theology had in these shifts? 

90 Lunch 

10-15 Gathering 

10-15 With one other woman, help each other to identify your particularities. 
Make a list of those characteristics in terms of class, race. 


nationality, etc. that make you uniquely who you. are. Think o-f as 
many as possible. (Please turn these sheets in to me without names 
after the session. ) 

45-60 General Discussion: Discuss why we don't o-ften think in terms o-f our 
particularity. Why are we more aware o-f our particularity in those 
areas in which we have little or no privilege? Why does being aware o-f 
and honoring our own particularity make us more apt to honor the 
particularity of others? How does the awareness of our particularity 
and that of others impact our ministries? 

30 Break 

80 Questions for session: In what ways in your life has the 
erotic/sensual/sexual been experienced as a source of 
creation/liberation/power' 7 ' Are there ways in which the erotic, 
spiritual, and vocational have been linked in such a way in your life 
as to be empowering to you and others? Where have they been in 

Each woman gives an illustration of when the erotic/sensual/sexual has 
been a. source of creat lon/liberation/power in her life (10 minutes 
each) . 

20 Concluding discussion 

120 Dinner 

30 Keeping in mind a particular political situation you experienced in the 
context of the PCUSA, reflect alone on these questions. (Jot down your 
answers ana turn into me after the session.) 

1. Who were those involved? 

2. What were the issues? 

3. Did you have any support? From whom? 

4. What means did you use to analyze and strategize about the 

5. Did you act individually or corporately? 

6. How did the issue get "resolved"? 

7. What were the pay-offs and costs to you/your group as a result of 
your involvement in the political situation? 

8. Did feminist liberation theology help you in your analysis or 

60 General Discussion and Sharing 

15 Closing 

Social Time 

Sunday^ April 23 



Business Items 


Questions -for the session: When you envision yourself 20 years from 
now, who do you see 9 How would you have liked to have spent your time 
and energy? What personal and societal issues will have received most 
of your attention? 

Each woman shares for 10 minutes 

15 Break 

Closinq Ritual 


(Each session was opened and/or closed with a brief and simple ritual which I 
planned and led but with others also providing leadership. These rituals 
included a. lot of participatory aspects.) 

Appendix K 
Elements Essential to Trans-format ion 

1. Encounter with the Poor : The initial revision of the map of reality 
-for the non-poor requires a direct encounter with the poor or oppressed, those 
persons who suffer as innocent victims of the structure of a society that 
protects the privileges of the non-poor. The controlling ideology is so 
powerful and pervasive that it is virtually impossible for the non-poor to 
educate themselves on issues of peace and justice, to pierce the ideological 
cocoon, apart from a direct encounter with the poor.... In addition, a personal 
encounter is often the only way effectively to challenge the non-poor's 
stereotype of the poor.... the poor and oppressed themselves are the 
indispensable teachers and eventual liberators of the non-poor.... 

2. Experiential Immersion that Challenges Assumptions : The language of 
"conversion" and "reversal,'' the vision of countering the controlling ideology 
for the sake of justice, and the discussion of the necessity for adjustments 
in lifestyle all imply major shifts in perspectives for the non-poor. The 
research points to the need for an experiential shock that challenges previous 
assumptions, reduces one's resistance to change, and requires the exploration 
of alternative patterns of living. For those reasons some type of immersion 
experience appears indispensable to transformative education. The immersion 
experience shapes the conditions under which a personal encounter with the 
poor and oppressed people can be fully incorporated,... 

3. Openness to Vulnerability : Vulnerability is impossible to assure in 
an educational design. Therefore, I have used the idea of openness to 
vulnerability as a feasible goal. The risk involved in placing oneself in 
vulnerable situations is an important component of transformation. This is 
especially true when the situation is likely to require one's temporary 
dependence on the poor, who are normally perceived as dependent on the charity 
or generosity of the non-poor. ... such risk includes for the non-poor a sense 
of danger, a high level of energy, and a desire to investigate alternatives. 
Yet one result which a risk-laden act evokes may be even more determinative 
for transformation. It is the willingness to be genuinely vulnerable to and 
dependent on the care and skills of a person in whom one would normally place 
no trust, especially concerning personal health and safety.... 

4. Community of Support and Accountability : ...A community of support 
can provide the foundation for taking the risk to be vulnerable in an 
immersion encounter with the poor and oppressed. .. .a supportive community, 
especially a community of faith, allows persons to discern and respond to the 
demands of a biblical reversal for their own lives and institutions with a 
degree of honesty and integrity that would be impossible alone.... 

5. Vision and Values : Articulating and sustaining the vision are 
essential to movements toward change. .. .Effective resistance to injustice and 
certainly the energy to act for structural change demand constant 
clarification of the new map of reality. ... The following relationship is 
demonstrable: the more demanding the prerequisites, the fewer the number of 

persons who will be willing to commit themselves to trans-format lve ecucation. 
Those who do may be described as a vanguard or a remnant. I personally prefer 
the image of an "anticipatory community of -faith." 

6. Cycle o-f Critical Socioeconomic Analysis — Reflection/Action/ 
Reflection : ...Control over the non-poor by the dominant ideology is sustained 
by their experiential isolation from the reality under which the victims of 
poverty live. The reluctance on the part of the non-poor to trust their 
intuition and emotions when they are exposed to this reality contributes to 
that control. ... In addition to the need for the emotional, intuitive, and 
experiential components, there is a need for an analytical and critical 
element in transformative education. .. .A balance to the rhythm or cycle must 
be restored. This calls for a dual emphasis on critical, reflective 
preparation and follow-up plus exper lential-based action: that is, a cycle of 
reflect ion /act ion/ reflect ion. . . . 

7. Commitment, Involvement, and Leadership : ...I think there is a strong 
connection between expected commitment, empowered involvement, and empowering 
shared leadership. The latter is facilitated not just by the formally 
designated leader of an educational event but by the developing and reciprocal 
leadership of the whole learning community as well. ... There are marks of 
leadership -for all participants in models of transformative education: (a) 
iifestyiee tested against the criteria for transformation; (b) styles of 
learning and teaching that are mutual: (c) ability to learn from and honor the 
gifts of the poor; (d) skills in articulating common alienation; and (e) 
sensitivity to empowering others. 

8. Symbol, Ritual and Liturgy : ...There is often an interconnection 
between symbol and ritual that appears in the transformative experience. In 
the Christian community the liturgy or worship experience frequently becomes 
the event in which the symbols of the community and the ritual that dramatizes 
those symbols is lived out. Transformation of consciousness Py experience or 
reflection is enhanced by receiving and participating in illuminating and 
transforming symbols. ... In the process of transformation the vision of a new 
reality contains the symbolic declaration of the meaning and direction of 
human life. . . . 


Appendix L 

Appendix M 
General Assembly Report on the Church and Homosexuality May, 1978 


I. Response to Overture 9(1976) 

The Presbytery o-f New York City and the Presbytery of the Palisades have 
asked the General Assembly to give "definitive guidance" in regard to the 
ordination of persons who may be otherwise well qualified but who affirm their 
own homosexual identity and practice. 

The phrase "homosexual persons" does not occur in the Book of Order of 
the United Presbyterian Church. No phrase within the Book of Order explicitly 
prohibits the ordination of self-af firming, practicing homosexual persons to 
office within the church. However, no phrase within the Book of Order can be 
construed as an explicit mandate to disregard sexual practice when evaluating 
candidates for ordination. In short, the Book of Order does not give explicit 
direction to presbyteries, elders, and congregations as to whether or not 
self-af firming, practicing homosexual persons are eligible or ineligible for 
ordination to office. 

There-fore, the 190th General Assembly (1978) of The United Presbyterian 
Church in the United States of America offers the presbyteries the following 
definitive guidance: 

That unrepentant homosexual practice does not accord with the 
requirements for ordination set forth in Form of Government, Chapter VII, 
Section 3 (37.03):... "It is indispensable that, besides possessing the 
necessary gifts and abilities, natural and acquired, everyone undertaking a 
particular ministry should have a sense of inner persuasion, be sound in the 
faith, live according to godliness, have the approval of God's people and the 
concurring judgment of a lawful judicatory of the Church." 

In relation to candidates for the ordained ministry, committees should 
be informed by the above guidance. 

II. Recommendations 

Consistent with this policy statement and conclusions, the 190th General 
Assembly (1978): 

1. Adopts this policy statement and directs the Office of the General 
Assembly to send a copy of the policy statement to all congregations, 
presbyteries, and synods and to provide it for widespread distribution. 

2. Receives the background paper of the Task Force to Study 
Homosexuality as a study document, and directs the Office of the General 
Assembly to provide copies to all congregations, presbyteries, and synods and 

to make such copies available to others upon request. 

3. Urges judicatories, agencies, and local churches to undertake a 
variety of educational activities, using both -formal and in-formal church 
structures and organizations. 

a. Since homosexuality is one issue that helps clarify our general 
responsibility to God in the world and focuses many dimensions of belief and 
action, such educational activities should probe such basic issues as (1) the 
strengthening of family life: (2) ministry to single persons and affirmation 
of their full participation in the Christian community; (3) nurturing 
lifestyles in our families, congregations, and communities that celebrate the 
values of friendship with peers of one's own sex and the opposite sex, 
committed choice of life-mates, joyous and loving fidelity within marriage, 
the establishment of homes where love and care can nurture strong children 
able to give loving service to others, and the fashioning of an atmosphere of 
justice, truth, and kindness that signals Christ's presence; (4) understanding 
how to extend ministries of deep concern and challenge to those who through 
choice or circumstance are sexually active, homosexuality or heterosexuality, 
outside the covenant of marriage; (5) helping those whose ability to show 
loving concern is destroyed by homophobia — the irrational fear of and contempt 
for homosexual persons. 

b. Workshops in synods and presbyteries should be conducted both 
to explore ways to help homosexual persons participate in the life of the 
church and to discover new ways of reaching out to homosexual persons outside 
the church. 

c. Courses on sexuality should be initiated by seminaries, 
colleges, and churches to provide officers and members with a systematic 
understanding of the dynamics of human sexuality as understood within the 
context of Christian ethics. 

d. Contact and dialogue should be encouraged among groups and 
persons of all persuasions on the issue of homosexuality. 

4. Urges presbyteries and congregations to develop outreach programs to 
communities of homosexual persons beyond the church to allow higher levels of 
rapport to emerge. 

5. Urges agencies of the General Assembly, as appropriate, to develop 
responses to the following needs: 

a. Support for outreach programs by presbyteries and congregations 
to homosexual persons beyond the church to allow higher levels of rapport to 

b. Encouragement of contact and dialogue among groups and persons 
who disagree on whether or not homosexuality is sinful per se and whether or 
not homosexual persons «ay be ordained as church officers. 

c. Development of structures to counsel and support homosexual 
persons concerned about their sexuality and their Christian faith. 

d. Development of pastoral counseling programs for those affected 
or offended by the decision of this General Assembly. 

6. Urges candidates committees, personnel committees, nominating 

committees, and judicatories to conduct their examination of candidates for 

ordained office with discretion and sensitivity, recognizing that it would be 
a hindrance to God's grace to make a specific inquiry into the sexual 
orientation or practice of candidates for ordained office or ordained officers 
where the person involved has not taken the initiative in declaring his or her 
sexual orientation. 

7. Calls upon the media to continue to work to end the use of harmful 
stereotypes of homosexual persons; and encourages agencies of the General 
Assembly, presbyteries, and congregations to develop strategies to insure the 
end of such abuse. 

8. Calls on United Presbyterians to reject in their own lives, and 
challenge in others, the sin of homophobia, which drives homosexual persons 
away from Christ and his church. 

?. Encourages persons working in the human sciences and therapies to 
pursue research that will seek to learn more about the nature and causes of 

10. Encourages the development of support communities of homosexual 
Christians seeking sexual reorientation or meaningful, joyous, and productive 
celibate lifestyles and the dissemination throughout the church of information 
about such communities. 

11. Encourages seminaries to apply the same standards for homosexual and 
heterosexual persons applying for admission. 

12. Reaffirms the need, as expressed by the 182no General Assembly 
(1970) for United Presbyterians to work for the decriminalization of private 
homosexual acts between consenting adults, and calls for an end to the 
discriminatory enforcement of other criminal laws against homosexual persons. 

13. Call upon United Presbyterians to work for the passage of laws that 
prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, and public 
accommodations based on the sexual orientation of a person. 

14. Declares that these actions shall not be used to affect negatively 
the ordination rights of any United Presbyterian deacon, elder, or minister 
who has been ordained prior to this date. 

Further the 190th General Assembly (1978) calls upon those who in 

conscience have difficulty accepting the decisions of this General Assembly 

bearing on homosexuality to express that conscience by continued dialogue 
within the church. 



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